Nick Clegg – 2009 Speech to Liberal Democrat Party Conference

nickclegg

Below is the text of the speech made by the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, to the party conference on the 23rd September 2009.

In the last eight weeks, 28 British soldiers and Royal Marines have been killed in Afghanistan. However easy it may be to forget, we are a nation at war. Already more than 75,000 British men and women have done tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Thousands upon thousands of our compatriots, putting their lives on the line in the burning heat and the frozen winters of a country on the other side of the world. I want to pay tribute, on behalf of all of us, to the tenacity, bravery and extraordinary professionalism of every one of them. Their families, too, have borne with incredible fortitude the separation, the fear, and the anguish of bereavement. We salute them.

I’m afraid the hardship has been deepened, for all of them, by the enormous difficulties of this war. After nearly 8 years, victory not only seems more distant than ever, failure seems inevitable unless we change course.

I know some of you believe we should call for British troops to withdraw now. If things continue on the present disastrous course, then sooner or later that is a judgement which we may need to make. That is why we must change course. We have one more chance, one only, to turn things around.

Success cannot be secured through military means alone. Development assistance must be bigger and faster. Talks with moderate elements of the Taliban network must commence. The international community must at last agree to a single plan in place of the present patchwork of duplication, disunity and muddle.

The threadbare legitimacy of the government in Kabul must be strengthened by reaching out across ethnic and tribal divisions. And here at home Gordon Brown must change gear, too. He must now show the leadership and conviction that has so far been so disastrously lacking in making the case to the British people.

You cannot win a war on half horse power. We owe it to the young men and women serving in Helmand to give them all the political leadership and all the resources they need to do the job. We should either do this properly or we shouldn’t do it at all. So I say to the Prime Minister: time is running out.

Unless you change course, there will be no choice but to withdraw, and that would be a betrayal of the servicemen and women who have already made such enormous sacrifices on our behalf. I do not want British troops to come home defeated by political failure. I want them to come home, mission successfully completed, with their heads held high.

Today is the beginning of real change in Britain

Let me tell you why I want to be Prime Minister. It’s because I want to change our country for good.

Because I want to live in a country where prejudice, insularity and fear are conquered by the great British traditions of tolerance, pluralism and justice. Where political life is not a Westminster village freak show, but open, accessible and helpful in people’s everyday lives. Where fine words on the environment are translated into real action.

Where every child can grow up safe and secure, able to flourish, no matter their background, their income, or the colour of their skin. Where we make sense of the complex, globalised world of our times and play a creative role in shaping it.

Where rights, freedom and privacy are not the playthings of the government but safeguarded for everyone. I want to be Prime Minister because I want to be the first Prime Minister in my lifetime to be on the side of the weak against the powerful, on the side of freedom against conformity, on the side of human innovation against government decree.

I want to be Prime Minister because I have spent half a lifetime imagining a better society. And I want to spend the next half making it happen.

I was lucky enough to be brought up in a large, warm family that had almost no time at all for the status quo. By parents who encouraged us, required us, as children always to ask why. Always to assume that there is a better way of doing things. If you only bother to look for it. That’s the spirit I found in the Liberal Democrats. It’s why I joined, and why I wanted to lead our party.

Friends, this has been quite a week for us. I’ve been called a number of names. Even “a good leader”. By Evan Harris. I am never going to duck asking the important questions, however difficult they are. But I am immensely proud to lead a party that actually debates things, openly and democratically. Let’s always remember: we are in this together.

So let us not look back any longer. Let us look forward. From this point on, keep your eyes on our goal. Let today mark the beginning of real change in Britain.

These are extraordinary times. A global recession. Mass unemployment. A broken political system. Government finances in crisis. And still: inequality rising and climate change spinning out of control. Faced with these extraordinary challenges; We need an extraordinary government.

Blue-Red, Red-Blue

Because one thing, above all others, is certain. The way we got here is not the way out. The blue-red, red-blue politics that got us into this mess cannot clear it up. The way we got here is not the way out. Britain needs a change of direction. Let today mark the beginning of real change in Britain.

Look at what the old red-blue politics offers. Back in 1997, Peter Mandelson told us to judge Labour after 10 years in government. It’s been twelve years. And we have made our judgement.

If you’re poor, you’re still far less likely to go to university than if you’re better off.

If you’re from an ethnic minority, you’re more likely to be stopped by the police, even when you haven’t done anything wrong.

If you’re a woman, you’ll probably be paid less than the men you know. And if you’re a child born in the poorest neighbourhood of my city, Sheffield, you will probably die 14 years before a child born the same day, just up the road, in a more affluent part of town. We have made our judgement of Labour. They betrayed the best hopes of a generation.

People are hungry for change. So the question now is: what change? David Cameron talks about change. But is it real change?

He talks about broken Britain but campaigns for tax breaks for the very rich. He says he cares about the environment but then teams up with climate change deniers in Europe. He claims he wants to clean up politics but won’t tell you whether his biggest donor pays taxes in Britain. That isn’t real change, it’s fake change. And Britain deserves better.

To be fair, the Conservatives do have one belief. That it’s their turn to govern. They think power should come easily. You get the sense from so many of them that they became Conservatives mostly because it looked like the simplest route to a job in the cabinet.

I chose the Liberal Democrats. Not because I thought it would be an easy route to power. I knew it would be hard. But because I wanted to fight for what I believed in, however hard, however long it took.

The Conservatives want to inherit power; I want us to earn it.

The thing about David Cameron is – the PR might be good, but what’s behind it? It’s like my grandmother would have said. There’s less to him than meets the eye.

As for me? Well, occasionally I’m a bit too blunt in interviews – but at least you know I’m not just spinning you a line. I speak out.

On the Speaker of the House of Commons.

On Afghanistan.

On bankers’ bonuses.

On citizenship rights for the Gurkhas.

And I am so honoured that some of you have been able to be here with us today.

People are turning to the Liberal Democrats. Because they see there’s something different about us. It’s our pioneering spirit.

It was a liberal, Gladstone, who helped develop the concept of universal human rights. It was a liberal, Lloyd George, who introduced the world’s first universal state pension. It was a liberal, Beveridge, who invented the NHS.

Ours is the party of Paddy Ashdown, the first person to put climate change on the national agenda. Ours is the party of Charles Kennedy. Of Ming Campbell. Who used all the courage of their convictions to oppose the illegal invasion of Iraq. Ours is the party of Vince Cable, the first to see problems brewing in our economy, the first with a vision of how to take us to recovery.

It’s because Liberal Democrats are different that, when Gordon Brown let casino investment banking loose on our economy. The Conservatives said yes, and only Liberal Democrats said no.

When Gordon Brown let house prices rocket and personal borrowing get out of control, the Conservatives said yes, and only Liberal Democrats said no. When the contracts were being drawn up for new polluting runways. When our civil liberties were being torn up. When our troops were massing on the borders of Iraq. The Conservatives cheered from the sidelines, and only Liberal Democrats said no.

We are the only party that offers real change at the next election. Labour is dying on its feet. We are replacing them as the dominant force of progressive politics. We are the alternative to a hollow Conservative party that offers just an illusion of change.

Make no mistake. There is only one party that will bring real change to Britain. The Liberal Democrats.

The Challenge

The biggest challenge for the next government will be sorting out the public finances. It’s a challenge neither exhausted Labour nor fake Conservatives are fit to take on. This year’s deficit is likely to be one of the highest in Europe. We will borrow £175bn this year alone – £5,550 every single second. Total national debt could hit £1.2 trillion next year – £20,000 for every man, woman and child.

I’ll be straight with you. There is no easy solution. There isn’t a serious economist in the world who agrees with the Conservatives that, right in the grip of recession, with two and a half million unemployed, we should pull the rug out from under the economy with immediate spending cuts. But, once the economy recovers, we are going to have to control spending tightly for many years to come.

We were right, in years gone by, to campaign for new spending to help people, to support them, as children, as young adults, as parents and as pensioners. As Charles Kennedy rightly says: our commitments demonstrate generosity of spirit. And those manifestos were right for an age of plenty. Now something different is needed.

But let me make something very clear. I am not going to abandon our vision for a better Britain because money’s tight. It makes me more determined. Balancing the government books isn’t a maths test.

Fiscal discipline is not an end in itself. We offer discipline for a purpose. Not just austerity, but progressive austerity. Reducing the deficit, yes, but also building a fair society and a green economy. Still driven by generosity of spirit, but fit for the circumstances of the day. It’s the only way to deliver real change in Britain.

That’s why our approach is completely different from the two other parties’. We aren’t going to salami-slice budgets like Labour and the Conservatives. Pretending that you can save billions of pounds just by using fewer paperclips and putting up the price of Parliamentary salads.

It isn’t true, and everyone knows it isn’t true. We know what happens when you simply squeeze budgets, across the board, until the pips squeak. We know, because we lived through it before, under the Conservatives. We remember the tumble-down classrooms, the pensioners dying on hospital trolleys, the council houses falling into total disrepair. We remember, and we say: never again.

Liberal Democrats will do things differently. Not shaving a bit off everything, but asking fundamental questions about what the government should and shouldn’t be doing. Working out, openly and publicly, what works and what doesn’t. So we can completely cancel the things that don’t work. In order to protect, and even in some cases extend, investment that really matters. That is progressive austerity.

We’ve already identified big areas where substantial long-term savings can be made. Reducing the bureaucracy of Labour’s centralised state, databases and agencies. Cutting the cost of politics – changing our electoral system and having 150 fewer MPs. Reforming tax credits so they go to the people who really need them. Spending less on defence procurement.

We heard yesterday Gordon Brown is considering taking one of the Trident nuclear submarines out of service. I welcome that step in the right direction. But if you want to lead nuclear disarmament around the world, you need to be more decisive. That is why we say no to the like-for-like replacement of Trident.

Some people have asked me why we’ve talked so much about identifying cuts. I know it doesn’t feel comfortable some of the time. But we’re doing it because we know that the more we save, the safer our schools and hospitals will be. And we know that if we save enough, we will still be able to include in our manifesto, despite these difficult times, some of the pledges for new investment that we hold so dear.

Because if we end the child trust fund, we can pay for smaller classes for five, six and seven year olds. If we stop the waste of money on the useless NHS IT system. We could improve maternity services so every new family gets a great start.

If we substantially reform politics, with fewer MPs, government ministers, departments and quangos, we could save billions. And we could put the money into insulating homes and improving public transport, creating thousands of new, green jobs. Building up Britain’s infrastructure not our bureaucracy.

Many of these decisions will be difficult. Taking them is the price of fairness. But if we are brave enough to take them. It will be the beginning of real change in Britain.

I want to say something to teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, social workers, in fact to everyone who works in our public services. Britain depends on people like you and the services you provide. I know these are anxious times for you.

Everyone is talking about cuts. But neither Labour nor the Conservatives has come clean about what that means for you. They’re not treating you like grown-ups. I want to work with you, hand in glove, to agree the way forward on pensions and on pay.

On pensions. Of course, we will guarantee every penny of entitlements you’ve already built up. But we do need to have a proper, independent review of what’s fair, not just for public sector workers, but also for the taxpayers who pay your salaries. Let me reassure you: my particular focus will always be on the gold-plated pensions enjoyed by senior civil servants, quangocrats, judges – and MPs. At a time of pressure for everyone, it’s only right for those with the broadest shoulders to take the greatest weight.

Next: pay. We will never go back on an existing pay deal. That would be a betrayal. But in future, we need to work together to agree strict, disciplined limits. Again, I believe people with the most generous salaries should take the brunt of cuts so their lower-paid colleagues don’t have to. But if it comes down to discipline on pay or mass redundancies. I think we all agree: protecting jobs must come first.

Young people are bearing too much of the burden of this recession. Imagine how it must feel to have slogged your way through school, college or university, maybe racking up thousands of pounds in debt, only to find there isn’t a job, any job, at the other end. This is supposed to be one of the most hopeful, optimistic moments in your life.

Imagine sitting at home day after day, no money, nothing to do but wait for your fortnightly appointment at the JobCentre. We used to worry about getting our children onto the property ladder. Now we have to worry whether they’ll ever get a job. There can be nothing more dispiriting at this formative moment. It destroys your self-confidence, perhaps for good.

I want to say, to young people. I am sorry. I am sorry that you have been, already, let down so many times. I am sorry that you will spend your working lives burdened by the debts of a previous generation.

But sorry isn’t good enough. Our job isn’t to feel bad about problems, it’s to fix them. My commitment to the next generation is simple. The Liberal Democrats will not fail you.

A New Promise

So today we make a new promise to young people that they will not be unemployed for longer than 90 days before we find them work or training. Let me spell out what that would mean: If you lost your job today, we’d find you work, training, or a paid internship by Christmas. Right now, we would cancel Labour’s VAT cut and use the money to invest in young people’s futures.

We would pay for 10,000 more university places and 50,000 more college places this year. And we would introduce a new “Paid Internship” scheme to give people real job experience. With an allowance of £55 a week. Young people would get experience that could make all the difference when it comes to looking for a job.

And you know. We could pay for 800,000 placements. for 800,000 young people. For the cost of just one weekend’s VAT cut. If it’s between 15p off a cinema ticket and a decent future. I know what we should choose.

I have always believed that you can’t make progress as a society unless every generation tries to do better for its children. That’s an idea that’s at the core of Liberal Democrat values. Providing opportunity for our children, even as we provide dignity and security in retirement and old age.

To build a fair society, you have to start with children. And you have to start young. In Britain today, a poor, bright child will be overtaken by a less intelligent, but wealthier child by the time he is seven. This has to change. The first few years are the most important in determining a child’s future. Those first few years when their character, their personality are being shaped.

The first few years are the most important ones. That’s why we’ve always said: scrap the Child Trust Fund, which gives people a cash handout on their 18th birthday. And invest the money when it can really make a difference. With classes of just 15 for five, six and seven year olds. The beginning of real change in Britain.

If you want to know how fair a society is. Look at its tax system. Britain’s is painfully unfair. The poorest pay a bigger slice of their income than the richest. Polluters are allowed to get away with harming our environment without paying for the clean-up. And we lose as much as £40 billion a year to tax dodgers.

That’s why the Liberal Democrats are going to reinvent the tax system to make it fair. Not changing the amount we raise, but changing who pays.

We will raise the income tax threshold to £10,000, funded by closing loopholes that the wealthy exploit. And by making sure polluters pay for the damage they cause. I’ll be honest. If you’ve got a house worth over a million pounds. If you fly trans-Atlantic a couple of times a month. If you get a seven-figure bonus paid in share options to get round income tax. You will pay more.

That is what is fair. Why on earth should you get tax subsidies paid for by people whose salaries are just a tiny fraction of yours? I don’t want to penalise people who work hard. If you can make it big: all credit to you. But what it should win you is respect, not exemption from your tax bill.

In exactly the same way as on public spending. Many of these decisions on tax will be difficult. Taking them is the price of fairness. If we are brave enough to take them. It will be the beginning of real change in Britain.

So if there’s one policy you take away from this conference. One policy to mention on every doorstep, in every phone call, in every leaflet. Let it be this one.

We will deliver fair taxes Under a Liberal Democrat government, people will not pay a single penny of tax on the first £10,000 they earn. Millions of people will find themselves with an extra £700 in their pocket, and up to four million low earners and pensioners will pay no income tax at all. The beginning of real change in Britain.

After the expenses scandal, people are crying out, rightly, for something different at Westminster. Labour and the Conservatives have betrayed them. They offered warm rhetoric about change when the scandal was at its height. And then did nothing. They will defend the status quo to the last breath.

Only the Liberal Democrats will clean up Westminster, reform expenses, end big donations and elect the Lords. Only the Liberal Democrats will give people the right to sack MPs who are found guilty of serious wrongdoing. And only the Liberal Democrats will secure, once and for all, fair votes for everyone.

That means radical electoral reform, argued for from first principles. Not just some minor tinkering, put forward by a dying Labour government as a last, desperate attempt to save its skin.

We must do away with safe seats. Did you know, nearly half of Britain’s constituencies have elected the same party in every election since I was born? These are seats where you could put a red or blue rosette on the back end of a donkey and it would still win. Only when every MP has to do a decent job and win the trust of the people they represent will we ever clean up politics for good. It will be the beginning of real change in Britain.

Imagine a Liberal Democrat Cabinet

Imagine a Liberal Democrat cabinet. Maybe the odd heated meeting. But imagine Liberal Democrats at work.

Dr Vince Cable, of course, in his office at the Treasury. Ushering in fairer taxes.

Cutting the banks down to size. Tearing up the Treasury red tape that strangles local government. And that’s all between breakfast and lunch before he rattles off another book for the day.

I tell you, when it comes to bankers’ bonuses, I can’t think of anyone better to send into the negotiating room. You think Vince would listen to those reckless bankers demanding their millions? He’d say what we all believe: There will be no bonuses for failure, not today, not tomorrow, not ever again.

Then there’d be David Laws at the schools department, hunting down all those boxes and boxes of bureaucratic rules and paperwork that get in teachers’ way, and throwing them out. I mean, recycling them. And if the civil servants say the pupil premium is too complicated. They can’t work out how to invest the extra money to the benefit of the most deprived children. You know David will do the maths himself.

Chris Huhne at the Home Office. Restoring the civil liberties so shamefully discarded by this Labour Government on his first day with a Freedom Bill. Cancelling ID cards to help fund 10,000 more police on the streets. You know Chris won’t be put off by technocrats saying it can’t be done. He’ll produce volumes of statistics showing he’s right and look sternly over his glasses until they cave in.

Norman Lamb reinventing our NHS for modern times, giving communities and patients a real say. Professor Steve Webb getting to work at the crack of dawn to improve pensions for women. Sarah Teather and Norman Baker, building Britain’s infrastructure – the homes we need and the public transport we deserve. Julia Goldsworthy, devolving so much power to local communities she finds she can halve the size of her department.

And, Simon Hughes, taking charge of environment and energy policy. This is a man who’s faced death threats to bring a killer to justice. Who’s been involved in every environmental campaign you can think of since the 1980s. He isn’t going to listen to vested interests who say “it’s too difficult”. He’d set our course for the zero carbon future we need. The beginning of real change in Britain.

The Beginning of Real Change for Britain

Climate change is the greatest challenge of our age, no doubt about it. But it’s also, very much, a challenge of our age. Like so many of the problems governments have to deal with. From financial regulation to terrorism and internet crime.

It crosses borders.

You can’t stop the weather at the cliffs of Dover. That’s why the big deals, the ones that matter, are struck at international forums – like Copenhagen this December. A summit that must, must agree an international plan of action to keep global warming not just below 2 degrees, but below 1.7 degrees. Because that’s what the best science tells us is now needed to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Who do you want representing Britain at a crucial summit like that? Labour? They have let us down internationally. It wasn’t just Iraq. It was their disregard for European colleagues, refusing to attend summits, grandstanding about how superior they were. It was their disregard for international law. Their backroom deals with Saudi Arabia over BAE, with Libya over Lockerbie, with America over torture. Labour has undermined Britain in the world.

But what’s the alternative? William Hague? David Cameron and William Hague think the nineteenth century state still makes sense in a twenty-first century world. They simply do not understand that in an age of globalisation power must be exercised by nations together, not squandered by nations going it alone.

William Hague gives speeches about the enduring importance of the English speaking world. When everyone knows the new power centres are China, India and Brazil. A Cameron-Hague foreign policy would be the most insular and self defeating in modern times. How much influence would they have in Berlin, in Paris, in Brussels? Not a gram. Or even an ounce. And because they wouldn’t stand tall in Europe, they would count for little in Washington too.

But there is a third option. Imagine Liberal Democrats around the negotiating table.

Ed Davey, our outstanding shadow foreign secretary. Drawing on the wisdom of Shirley Williams. Paddy Ashdown. Ming Campbell. We would secure Britain a stronger role in the world. By putting us at the heart of the European Union and committing us to abide fully by international law.

The beginning of real change for Britain.

Go with Your Instincts: Vote Liberal Democrat

You know, before I went into politics I managed development aid projects in Central Asia. I led negotiating teams on international trade deals with China and Russia. I worked on new rules to help create the largest single market in the world, here in Europe. I’ve seen how different things could be if Britain would only play its cards right.

I know there are people who agree with a lot of what we’ve got to say. But who still don’t vote Liberal Democrat. You don’t think we’re contenders. I urge you to think again.

If you don’t agree with our policies. If you don’t want big change in Britain. Then don’t vote for us. But if you like what you hear. If you share our vision for a different kind of future. Then go with your instincts; vote Liberal Democrat.

Elections are decided by your cross on the ballot paper. Power is not any party’s to be inherited. Power is yours to give to whoever you choose.

So don’t turn away, don’t stay at home, don’t vote Conservative just because you think it’s the only option. This is Britain. We don’t settle for second best because we think it’s inevitable. We don’t compromise on our beliefs because people might not agree with us. We stand up for our values with our heads held high.

So when you enter that polling booth, choose the future you really want.

Make no mistake: the Liberal Democrats will do things differently in Britain. But if you want real change in Britain, you have to take a stand. If you want what we propose, you have to vote for it.

If you want tax cuts for ordinary people, paid for by closing loopholes for the very rich. If you want the right to sack your MP if they’re proved corrupt. If you want children to start out at school in classes of just 15. Then vote for it.

If you want our prisons to work, so there’s less crime. If you want a lasting job in a new, green economy. If you want Britain to stand tall again in the world. Then vote for it. This is a vital moment in the history of our country. And you have the power to shape it.

Labour is lost. They haven’t the ideas, energy or vision to start again. If you voted for them in the past, you have a choice. You can give away your vote to a fringe party. You can stay at home in despair. Or you can join with the Liberal Democrats and make the difference.

If you supported Labour in 1997 because you wanted fairness. You wanted young people to flourish. You wanted political reform. You wanted the environment protected. Or you simply believed in a better future. Turn to the Liberal Democrats. We carry the torch of progress now.

The choice at the next election is fake change from the Conservatives. Or real change from the Liberal Democrats. At a time like this.

A time of real crisis. Britain cannot afford to be taken in by David Cameron’s illusion of change. Britain needs leadership from a party with real passion, and it’s the Liberal Democrats.

There is hope for a different future, a different way of doing things in Britain, if we are brave enough to make a fresh start. So let today be the first day of the future of British politics. It may be only the beginning. But it is the beginning. The beginning of real change in Britain.

If you want things to be different, really different, choose the party that is different.

Choose the Liberal Democrats.

Nick Clegg – 2008 Speech to Liberal Democrat Party Conference

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Nick Clegg made his first leader’s speech to the Liberal Democrat party conference, which was held in Liverpool in 2008. He set out his personal beliefs and the need to change Britain’s political system:

My grandmother was a Russian exile.

She fled the Russian revolution as a child, escaping through Europe and finally settling here in Britain.

My mother spent part of her childhood in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Indonesia.

My mother and my grandmother – their lives torn and reshaped by the great wars and upheavals of the twentieth century.

And they found a home in Britain because ours is a nation of tolerance, of freedom, and of compassion.

And what my mother and grandmother endured taught me the extraordinary, precious value of those beliefs.

They understood that beliefs matter. They make all the difference between war and peace. Beliefs shape our world, for better and for worse.

And my family taught me never to give up on problems, and no matter what the odds or opposition, always to seek to do what’s right.

And there are problems in Britain today.

Too many.

Families stuck in grinding poverty.

Liberty taken and abused by government officials.

Climate change starting to tighten its deathly grip.

But they aren’t problems with the British people.

They’re problems faced by the British people.

We are not the problem.

It’s the system that’s the problem.

And that’s what gives me hope.

Because there is nothing we cannot change.

Our party is growing.

We’re going from strength to strength.

More supporters, more members, more MPs.

It’s not that long ago, if 13 MPs wanted to rebel, we’d have had to borrow some from the other parties.

You want to know the great political story of our generation?

It isn’t New Labour.

It isn’t New Conservatives.

Those are just the dying sparks of a fire that’s running out of fuel.

No. The great political story of our time is the story of the vast and growing army of people who look at the two main parties and say “no thanks.”

People who, like me, like you, want something different.

In 1951, only 2% of voters chose someone other than Labour or the Tories.

At the last general election, it was 32%.

Now a gimmick here, or a lucky break there may boost Labour or Conservative poll ratings for a few weeks or months.

But it cannot, and will not reverse the trend.

Who seriously believes that the British people, offered so much choice in every aspect of our daily lives, will ever again settle for a two-party system?

If you have two parties, you only ever have two ideas.

Actually that’s on a good day.

Most of the time they can’t even rustle up a single good idea between them.

No wonder people are tired of politics.

Tired of a system that swings like a pendulum between two establishment parties.

Tired of the same old politicians, the same old fake choices, the same old feeling that nothing ever changes.

But this isn’t a story of indifference.

People do care about issues. Climate change. Poverty. Their local school or hospital.

There are marches and campaigns and petitions launched every day of the week.

People care. They just don’t care about politicians.

So this is the end of the line for politics-as-usual.

If we want a political system that works for the future, we need to start again.

From scratch.

I am not just talking about electoral reform.

A change in our voting system is a vital part of what we need, but it isn’t enough.

First, let’s clean up politics.

Scandals over pay and expenses have shattered confidence.

Thousands of voters have seen their MP exposed for corruption – and been told there’s nothing they can do about it.

I want a Derek Conway Clause.

So if an MP is suspended for serious misconduct there is an automatic recall ballot so people can call for a by-election.

If your MP lets you down, you should have the power to fire them.

Second, let’s give people the say they deserve.

I hold town hall meetings up and down the country every couple of weeks – where I answer any question, on any topic, and anyone can come along.

I say to Gordon Brown and David Cameron: do the same.

Today I’m writing to invite them to join me at any one of the town hall meetings coming up.

Not as a media stunt, but a direct conversation with people – no spin, no hand-picked audiences, no planted questions.

And our plans for the NHS, approved this weekend, would give every citizen an even more direct say.

The power to run their local health service, by standing for election to their local health board.

This is real democracy in action.

Giving local people the chance to run services which really matter to them, and being held accountable at the ballot box by their own communities.

It’s our health service – it’s time to put it back in our hands.

Third, let’s design a new political system for the 21st century.

It shouldn’t be hammered out in secret, smoke-filled rooms, by the powers that be.

I want a citizens’ jury of 100 people to sit in a Constitutional Convention with all the political parties, churches, civil society groups and more – to look across the board, and redesign the way Britain is governed.

I wrote to David Cameron and Gordon Brown proposing such a Convention just after Christmas.

Their replies were laughable.

Dave suggested he and I gang up on Gordon.

And Gordon sent me six pages of legalistic waffle.

Willie Goodhart, Anthony Lester and the rest of our top legal experts are still locked in a Committee room trying to decipher it.

You see, only the Liberal Democrats will ever champion the sort of change we need.

Only we can transform the system, because we aren’t part of it.

I joined the Liberal Democrats because we’re independent.

When I was a teenager, Labour were in the pockets of the trade unions.

Conservatives in the pockets of big business.

What drew me to the Liberal Democrats was that we weren’t in anyone’s pocket.

It’s still the same.

The establishment parties will manipulate the system to get the power they want.

But they’ll never change it.

They like having power and privilege sewn up between a few chums in the Westminster bubble.

That’s why they won’t do what’s needed and get the money out of politics.

They don’t see we’re heading for the skids.

If we don’t act, Britain will end up like America, where political influence is all about cash.

That’s why I want a universal £25,000 cap on donations.

A real cap on spending.

And yes, an end to big union donations, and an end to offshore finance from Belize.

Transparency. Openness. A new constitutional settlement. And an end to big money politics.

That’s what Britain needs and we will get it done.

I’m not shy about doing whatever it takes.

If it means walking out of Parliament when the big parties collude against us, I say: fine.

If it means boycotting banquets that celebrate our relationship with dodgy regimes, like Vince Cable did, or speaking up to expose corruption like Chris Davies did, I say: so be it.

If it means risking court, and refusing to sign up for an Identity Card, I say: bring it on.

And you can expect more – much more – of that from me

It’s a high-risk strategy.

And I warn you, we can only make it work if we are united and if we are disciplined.

United and disciplined in the face of attacks from the establishment parties and the establishment media.

If we are not the radical force in British politics, who will be?

Not Gordon Brown.

Until last summer, we all thought we knew what Gordon Brown was all about.

We knew he’d signed the cheques for Iraq.

We knew he had an arrogant, centralising obsession with controlling everything.

And a steely determination to get his hands on the keys to Downing Street.

But at least people thought he would be able to manage things with a little competence.

Then look what happened.

A bottled election.

Northern Rock.

Party funding scandals.

Data losses.

This government had the audacity to advise every family in Britain to get a paper shredder, to protect them from identity fraud – and then proceeded to lose more of our personal data than any government in the history of the world.

But there’s worse.

Remember last autumn, after the election-that-never-was?

Alistair Darling stole a policy from the Tories and announced an inheritance tax cut that will help only the richest 6% of people.

And do you know where they found the money?

If the reports are true, they scrapped a plan they’d been developing all summer.

A plan to cut child poverty.

The future of hundreds of thousands of children sold down the river because the Labour party sold its soul and became the second Conservative party.

Money taken from the poorest kids and given to the richest adults, no questions asked.

Gutless, heartless, incompetent.

Gordon Cameron. David Brown. What’s the difference any more?

I’ve actually found out why it’s going so wrong for Gordon.

I’ve got my hands on a secret memo.

Drafted by Ed Miliband, redrafted by Ed Balls, leaked by Charlie Whelan.

Gordon Brown’s masterplan.

Number one: get into Downing Street.

Number two: don’t leave.

Number three: errr, that’s it.

No vision. No agenda. No hope.

And the Conservatives are just the same.

They’re in favour of winning, they’re against losing, and that’s it.

David Cameron has taken a conscious, strategic decision? not to have any policies.

They have commissions, and papers, and ideas, and possibilities.

But not one concrete promise.

This is sham politics from a party bereft of belief, that will say anything to get elected – and Britain deserves more.

You know their proposals for tax breaks for marriage are so ill-thought out, they would even give cash to a man who’s ditched his stay-at-home-wife and shacked up with his secretary.

Think about the alternatives to Alistair Darling.

In the yellow corner: Vince Cable, former chief economist at Shell.

In the blue corner: George Osborne, former Tory research assistant.

On tax: Vince Cable has carefully costed plans for a fairer, greener Britain.

And George Osborne has a review by Lord Howe, famously described as a dead sheep.

On Northern Rock, Vince Cable had a sensible plan for temporary national ownership.

And George Osborne has had more positions than the Kama Sutra.

On every issue, Vince is streets ahead, the Liberal Democrats are streets ahead of the Conservatives.

But have you heard the latest wheeze from the Tories?

It’s the extraordinary claim that David Cameron wants to mimic Barack Obama and be “anti-establishment”.

That’s like Margaret Thatcher claiming to be the champion of the unions.

Or Boris Johnson giving a master-class in the art of diplomacy.

This is a man who’s still not welcome in the great city of Liverpool. Or Portsmouth. Or Papua New Guinea.

And we must keep him out of City Hall too.

Ken Livingstone has let London down and the only man fit to replace him is Brian Paddick.

An outstanding candidate who will transform London.

It’s not just in London where we’re facing elections in May.

There are three thousand seats to be won.

So let’s campaign as we’ve never campaigned before.

Win more votes and more seats so even more British people can have the opportunity of a Liberal Democrat council.

The day before I was elected leader, Mr Cameron suggested we join them.

He talked about a “progressive alliance”.

This talk of alliances comes up a lot, doesn’t it?

Everyone wants to be in our gang.

So I want to make something very clear today.

Will I ever join a Conservative government?

No.

Will I ever join a Labour government?

No.

I will never allow the Liberal Democrats to be a mere annex to another party’s agenda.

But am I interested in building a new type of government? Yes.

Based on pluralism instead of one party rule? Yes.

A new system, that empowers people not parties? Yes.

We want a new, more liberal Britain.

And the Liberal Democrats will be the gathering point for everyone who wants that liberal Britain too – no matter their background, no matter their party.

So for anyone who shares our ambitions I have two words: join us.

What will it look like, this new Britain?

First the great monoliths of centrally-run bureaucracies must be opened up – and run for the sake of the people, the patients, the pupils.

These days individuals are powerless in the face of the rules and regulations that run everything.

Every sensible request is met with a mindless “Computer Says No”.

Who hasn’t got stuck in the nightmarish world of an automatic phone service they laughably call a “helpline”?

The lift music. The menus. The mechanical voice that tells you “your call is important to us”.

It’s frustrating when you’re trying to sort out your gas bill.

But what if that helpline’s your only route to getting money for food, heating, clothes for your kids?

That’s what happened to Hayley Sandford, a young single mum from Camborne, in Cornwall.

She didn’t want to be stuck on benefits.

So she took a job over the summer.

She and her friend Donna spent six weeks doing face-painting for kids.

But the season ended, the crowds went home, and the job stopped.

Hayley’s tax credits had been mistakenly stopped too. And now she had no wages either.

Just imagine. No money, and a young son to feed.

She was desperate.

Tipped into financial chaos because the system couldn’t keep up.

Because bureaucrats were interested only in forms and rules.

They couldn’t see the human tragedy emerging in front of them.

In the end, Hayley was lucky. Her MP, Julia Goldsworthy, stepped in and helped sort out the chaos.

But it shouldn’t have to be like this.

We can’t all rely on Julia.

We want services that are human-sized, personal in nature, and designed for real people.

We don’t want these services handed down by the faceless state.

Gordon Brown is obsessed with building bigger and bigger database systems.

I sometimes wonder if it’s a mid-life crisis thing.

You know – instead of buying a Porsche or trying to climb Everest.

It’s an international game of “mine’s bigger than yours”.

They’re actually proud of the fact Britain has more innocent people’s DNA on file than any other country in the world.

Proud that Britain is leading the world in fingerprinting children at school.

Proud that the Identity Card database will be the biggest and most complex the world has ever seen.

They shouldn’t be proud, they should be ashamed.

Our civil liberties are a hard-won inheritance from our forefathers who fought and died for our freedom.

And our party will defend them to the end.

It’s a funny thing, freedom.

It ought to belong to everyone, in equal measure.

But in Britain today, some people are still more free than others.

Pensioners spending a whole winter in the bedroom, because it’s the only room they can afford to heat.

That isn’t freedom.

Children shunted from one damp, temporary flat to another – sharing a bed with their parents because there’s no space for a room of their own.

That isn’t freedom.

Teenagers trapped in a cycle of drink and drugs and crime, because they have never known anything different.

That isn’t freedom.

And it doesn’t have to be like this.

A better Britain would put education and opportunity at its very heart so no child, no parent, is ever trapped in poverty.

These days, a clever, but poor child, will be overtaken at school by a less clever, but wealthier child by the age of six.

The age of six.

Just two thousand days old, and already let down by the system.

We cannot let this go on.

I met a remarkable young man a couple of months ago in Southwark.

Ashley had the kind of drive and charisma that fills you with hope – and the kind of childhood that makes you want to weep.

Passed about from one set of foster parents to another.

These days, the government calls kids in care “looked-after children”.

Too often, “looked-after” is just a painful euphemism for a childhood on the scrap heap.

You know how many looked-after children go to university?

Five percent.

But Ashley defied the system, defied the statistics, and got into Cambridge.

By sheer force of personality, and with the help of a good school, he has conquered circumstance.

But it shouldn’t be so hard.

The system should pave the way for people like Ashley, not set up roadblocks.

That’s why our idea for a Pupil Premium is so important, to get investment in education for the poorest children up to the levels of private schools.

And I will find the £2.5 billion it will cost.

I want to build an education system where the people who need the most help get the most help.

Where schools that take on children who are harder to teach get extra cash to fund catch up classes, Saturday school, one-to-one tuition – whatever it takes.

I’ve seen it work.

In the Netherlands, classes in deprived areas are half the size of classes in more affluent areas.

And as a result everyone gets a good education, no matter what their background.

We can have that here.

We can have a better education system, and through it a better Britain.

But, inequality today isn’t just about what happens at school.

The crisis reaches so deep that where you are born, and who your parents are, affects everything about how your life will pan out.

It even affects how long that life will be.

Some day, if you’re in London, get on the tube at Westminster, on the Jubilee line.

Take an eastbound train towards the Docklands.

Every station you pass, every time the train stops, every time the doors open and close, for every stop you travel east, life expectancy drops by a year.

It’s the same across Britain.

In Sheffield, a child born in the poorest neighbourhood will live 14 years less than a child born just a few miles away.

The NHS is a great national institution.

But it isn’t good enough.

It isn’t good enough when the very number of days you will spend on this planet are determined by the place and circumstances of your birth.

So let us build a new NHS – a People’s NHS.

That’s why this week we’ve committed ourselves to a patient guarantee.

Treatment within a specified waiting time – or we’ll pay for you to go private.

That’s the way it works in Denmark – not to undermine the public health system, but to guarantee patients’ rights.

And patients should have more control over their care – with budgets in their own hands to treat long term and chronic conditions.

Nowhere is this more important than in mental health.

People are waiting for literally years for help.

In Plymouth you’ll be stranded for three and a half years before you even get to see a therapist.

So people languish on incapacity benefit, and stuff themselves with pills that might not even work.

And sometimes, help never comes.

Like for Petra Blanksby.

A childhood of sexual abuse. Beatings from her mother. Repeatedly locked with her twin sister in a cupboard with the dogs.

In a last desperate cry for help, she set fire to her own mattress.

Instead of receiving help, she was convicted of arson and sent to prison where she tied a ligature around her neck and hanged herself.

She was 19.

And what makes the tragedy even more agonizing is that her twin sister, locked as a child in the same cupboard, but given help and therapy in her teens, is OK.

That’s how it should be. People should get a second, a third, a fourth chance at life – however many chances it takes.

Take our criminal justice system.

It doesn’t have to be just a dustbin for people who’ve been failed by everyone else.

It should be a place where people and communities come together to tackle crime and deal with problems.

Where criminals are punished, of course, but also steered away from crime.

I visited a great drugs court in West London last year run by a Judge called Justin Philips.

He wants the drug addicts he sees to really feel they’ve achieved something when they’re staying away from drugs and crime.

He cajoles, encourages, admonishes, and praises the offenders as if they were from his own family.

And it makes such a difference.

I met a young man called Aaron. His story was like that of almost every drug addict.

Stealing to buy drugs.

Failed attempts at rehab.

A never-ending cycle of crime, punishment, cold turkey, falling off the wagon.

And then he was sent to Judge Justin.

Who – quite literally – held his hand through the huge task of getting clean, and keeping clean.

Aaron told me – “Justin was the first person I ever met, my whole life, who cared about what happened to me.”

It makes a difference when you treat a human being like a human being.

And it can be this way.

We don’t have to have to have tens of thousands of young people hooked on drugs.

We don’t have to have women selling themselves on the streets to fund their desperate need for a hit.

We can care for people as we punish them, not only for their sake but to make British communities safer too.

Change the system, and we can change Britain.

Education, health and crime.

The top three concerns of the British people.

They have been for decades.

But I want us to get the environment up there too.

Our planet is sick.

And we will only heal it if people – if millions of people – demand action.

Climate scientists trade all sorts of terrifying numbers and statistics: degrees of warming, metres rise in sea levels, numbers of people who’ll be driven from their homes.

But there’s one number that worries me most.

Just one in fourteen people thinks the environment is a big problem.

Everyone in this room knows the Liberal Democrats have the best policies on tackling climate change.

But I am not content to sit around, burnishing our policy credentials so that, some time in the future – if the apocalypse comes – we can say “I told you so”.

We’ve got to make concern about the environment a mass movement – now.

We must provide an optimistic, empowering case for action to tackle climate change.

You can’t hector people – they must be motivated and inspired.

Especially when they’re already struggling to meet their council tax bills, the gas, the electric, childcare.

When you’re struggling to keep your head above water, buying a wormery or going organic seems like a luxury for someone else.

We all need to feel like the system’s on our side.

There are too many rules, too many blockages, too many obstacles to making life greener.

It’s even difficult to make small steps.

It actually took me a year – a whole year – to get the Labour council in Sheffield to put a recycling bin in the playground of a primary school in my constituency.

Now, I’m an MP. It’s my job to campaign for this sort of thing sometimes.

But how many parents are there, across the country, who had the same idea – let’s get a recycling bin at school – and gave up?

By changing the system, to support people who want to do their bit, we can get business, government and people to act together.

If we all begin today, we can still save the planet.

We can harness environmental leadership to drive our economy too.

We will need it, if we’re to withstand the global downturn that’s on the doorstep.

Britain is in no fit state to endure the impact of a recession in the US.

Our government has created a system propped up on cheap credit.

We’ve been building castles on the sand. And the tide is coming in.

Poor Alistair Darling has become the chief mourner at his own political funeral.

But outside Westminster, we all know who will suffer first, and most.

It isn’t the hedge fund managers. It isn’t the wealthy tax exiles.

It’s ordinary families, already struggling with rising council tax, soaring gas and electricity bills, and the merciless upwards creep of the price of food.

Why is it that those ordinary families still pay more tax than the richest people in Britain today?

What kind of messed-up system is that?

If we want a better Britain, with opportunity for everyone, we’ve got to have fair taxes.

Cutting income tax by 4p in the pound is a great start.

But we must never stop thinking about how we make taxes fairer, greener and – if possible – lower.

Not loopholes for people with clever tax accountants and offshore trusts.

But lifting the burden on ordinary families.

We mustn’t be a party that taxes for the sake of it.

I have no interest in taxing people to “send a message”.

Taxes should be fair, and they should be green.

They should raise the money we need? and not a penny more.

So if, before the General Election, we find we can deliver our objectives with money to spare, we shouldn’t look for new ways to spend it.

We should look for new ways to hand it back, especially to those who need it most.

We have called for tax rises in the past, when investment in our public services was intolerably low.

We were right to do so.

But after a decade of unprecedented increases in spending the problem now is not “how much” – it’s “how”.

We need to think radically about how we improve our public services.

Change funding systems so there’s fair access for everyone.

Deliver services efficiently, instead of wasting money on massive centralised systems that do more harm than good.

And devolve control to councils, communities, families, parents, patients and pupils.

Change will upset some people, I know.

Change always does.

There are vested interests at play – in the establishment parties, in the big central bureaucracies that run things in Britain today.

Someone’s got to take on the vested interests?

Someone’s got to challenge the established order of things?

And it’s got to be us? it can only be us.

I don’t just mean vested interests determining government policy here at home.

Our whole international political system – and Britain’s role within it – is twisted and warped by powerful people determined to promote their own interests.

What better example is there than Iraq?

If there is one thing this illegal war has taught us, it is this –

That when others choose to ride their tanks over the top of international law, our government must not roll over or join in.

Iraq was Bush’s war – and supporting it is Labour’s greatest shame.

Our whole political establishment is in thrall to the might of the Pentagon and the White House.

Only the Liberal Democrats say no.

Britain must embrace our relationship with other allies – especially Europe.

That’s why I will always be a passionate promoter of the European Union and Britain’s place at its heart.

But the Bush administration is coming to an end. At last.

We have a real chance now to break with the past.

Set priorities here in Britain, not in the Pentagon.

No more nods and winks to the abuse of human rights.

No more secretive deals to host American missile systems on British soil.

No more neo-con wars.

Now is the time for change.

Of course there will be times when military action is necessary.

We supported, and continue to support, the intervention in Afghanistan – and we must do more to make it a success.

But Britain’s response to threats must always be ethical, measured and legal.

Under Labour, quite simply, it isn’t any of those things.

This is a government which identifies twenty ‘major countries of concern’ for human rights abuses, then exports record levels of arms to nineteen of them.

This is a government which cancels an investigation into corrupt arms sales to Saudi, then rolls out the red carpet for a state visit from its king.

This is a Prime Minister who refuses to speak up on human rights abuses in China, then picks up his reward in the form of special trade deals.

For too long, vested interests have triumphed over doing what’s right and it’s got to stop.

Sometimes it makes you feel so helpless – and yes, angry too – when there’s so much you want to change.

I bet you’ve all felt like that once in a while.

Like there’s a mountain to climb, and it’s just too much to do alone.

The cynicism of so much public debate doesn’t help.

A cynicism that mocks anyone with the nerve to speak with sincerity about what they believe.

A cynicism that’s given up believing in hope.

But I am not embarrassed by sincerity.

I am not ashamed of believing in things.

I want to believe in a better Britain.

Every one of us is here today because we believe in a better Britain.

It’s time for a party that isn’t cowed by the system, or afraid to challenge it.

Because the chance for change is there – within our reach.

The chance to prise open, once and for all, the rotten old system, and build something new.

The chance is there.

It’s ours to take.

So let’s seize it.

David Cameron – 2015 Statement with President Barack Obama

davidcameron

Below is the text of the statement made by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, with President Barack Obama, on 7 June 2015 at the G7 meeting in Bavaria, Germany.

President Barack Obama

It is wonderful to be back with my good friend and partner David Cameron. I’d like to congratulate him, as I did over the phone, on his resounding election victory and look forward to working with him on a whole host of issues in the coming year.

This is going to give us an opportunity to discuss a number of particular challenges that require US and United Kingdom leadership. We’ll be talking about Russia and Ukraine, and the importance of us maintaining the sanctions regime to put pressure on Russia and separatist forces, to implement fully the Minsk agreement. We think that there can be a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to this problem but it’s going to require that Europe and the United States and the Transatlantic Partnership, as well as the world, stay vigilant and stay focused on the importance of upholding the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty.

We’ll have an opportunity to discuss the effort against ISIL and the situation in Iraq and Syria, and assess what’s working, what’s not and how we can continue to make progress there in dismantling the infrastructure that ISILhas built, and in promoting the kinds of political inclusion in Iraq and ultimately in Syria that are going to be necessary for a long-term solution.

We’ll also have a chance to talk about hot spots like Libya and Nigeria where obviously terrorism has gotten a foothold. And more affirmatively, we’re going to have the opportunity to continue the discussion bilaterally that we’ve been having with the other G7 members around issues like trade and climate change and the importance of US and British leadership on those issues.

So I am very much looking forward to this conversation. We have no closer partner around the globe on a whole host of critical issues. I would note that one of the great values of having the United Kingdom in the European Union is its leadership and strength on a whole host of global challenges. And so we very much are looking forward to the United Kingdom staying a part of the European Union because of – we think its influence is positive not just for Europe but also for the world.

Prime Minister David Cameron

Well, thank you very much, and it’s good to be back with my friend and close partner Barack Obama, and working together over the coming years. As you said Barack, there are so many issues to discuss at this meeting and bilaterally, with our very close partnership and the partnership between Britain and the United States, that special relationship. But they all really come down to two words: prosperity and security. What we want for our people back at home, which is the chance of a job and also the chance of greater security. And whether we’re discussing the situation in the Ukraine, the need to fight Islamist extremist terrorism, particularly in Iraq and Syria, but elsewhere around the world, it’s about keeping people safe back at home, where the cooperation between our security and intelligence services and our military is as close as it’s ever been, and as effective as it’s ever been.

We’ve also got a lot of issues to discuss that really will determine whether we can have successful, strong economies, like the need for these trade deals we were talking about earlier, and also the deal on climate change which is going to be very important for our future prosperity and security.

So a lot of issues to discuss tonight and it’s great to be back together with you addressing them in this bilateral meeting as well as in the bigger G7. So thank you very much.

David Cameron – 2014 Commons Statement on European Council

davidcameron

Below is the text of the statement made by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, on the European Council on 30th June 2014. The statement was made in the House of Commons in London.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on last week’s European Council.

Before turning to the appointment of the next Commission President, let me briefly report back on 2 other points.

First, the Council began in Ypres with a moving ceremony at the Menin Gate to mark the 100th anniversary of the gunshots in Sarajevo which led to the First World War.

It is right that we should take special steps to commemorate the centenary of this conflict and to remember the extraordinary sacrifice of a generation who gave their lives for our freedom.

The government is determined to ensure that Britain has fitting national commemorations, including the re-opening of the newly refurbished Imperial War Museum next month.

Second, the Council signed Association Agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

These reflect our commitment to supporting these countries as they undertake difficult reforms that will strengthen their economies, bolster their democracies and improve the stability of the whole continent.

President Poroshenko joined the Council to discuss the immediate situation in Ukraine.

The Council welcomed his peace plan and the extension of the ceasefire until this evening.

The onus is now on Russia to respond positively by pressing the separatists to respect a genuine ceasefire, to release hostages and to return occupied border posts to the Ukrainian authorities.

The Council agreed that if we don’t see concrete progress very soon, we remain willing to impose further sanctions on Russia, which would not necessarily require a further meeting of the Council.

But the Council will return to this issue at its next meeting which has now been arranged for 16 July.

Mr Speaker, turning to the appointment of the next Commission President.

I firmly believe that it should be for the European Council – the elected heads of national governments – to propose the President of the European Commission. It should not be for the European Parliament to try and dictate that choice to the Council.

That is a point of principle on which I was not prepared to budge.

In taking this position I welcomed the support of the Leader of the Opposition, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister, in opposing the imposition of Jean-Claude Juncker on the Council.

I believe that the Council could have found a candidate who commanded the support of every member state.

That has been the practice on every previous occasion.

And I think it was a mistake to abandon this approach this time.

Of course there is a reason why no veto is available when it comes to this decision.

And that is because the last government signed the Nice Treaty which gave up our veto over the nomination of the Commission President as well as the Lisbon Treaty which gave the Parliament stronger rights to elect the Commission President.

So once it was clear the Council was determined to proceed, I insisted that the European Council took a formal vote – something that doesn’t usually happen.

Facing the prospect of being outvoted some might have swallowed their misgivings and gone with the flow, but I believe it was important to push the principle and our deep misgivings about this issue to the end.

If the European Council was going to let the European Parliament choose the next President of the Commission in this way, I at least wanted to put Britain’s opposition to this decision on the record.

I believe this was a bad day for Europe – because the decision of the Council risks undermining the position of national governments.

And it risks undermining the power of national parliaments by handing further power to the European Parliament.

So while the nomination has been decided and must be accepted, it is important that the Council did at least agree to review and reconsider how to handle the appointment of the next Commission President the next time this happens.

And this is set out in the Council conclusions.

Mr Speaker, turning to the future, we must work with the new Commission President, as we always do, to secure our national interest.

I spoke to him last night and he repeated his commitment in his manifesto to address British concerns in the EU.

This whole process only underlines my conviction that Europe needs to change.

And some progress was made in arguing for reform at this Council.

The Council Conclusions make absolutely clear that the focus of the Commission’s mandate for the next 5 years must be on building stronger economies and creating jobs, exactly as agreed with the leaders of Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands at Harpsund earlier this month.

The Council underlined the need to address concerns about immigration arising from misuse of – or fraudulent claims on – the right of freedom of movement.

We agreed that national parliaments must have a stronger role and that the EU should only act where it makes a real difference.

We broke new ground with the Council conclusions stating explicitly that Ever Closer Union must allow for different paths of integration for different countries and, crucially, respects the wishes of those like Britain that do not want deeper integration.

And for the first time all my 27 fellow heads of government have agreed explicitly, in the Council Conclusions, that they need to address Britain’s concerns about the European Union. That has not been set before.

So while Europe has taken a step backwards in respect of the nomination of the Commission President, we did secure some small steps forward for Britain in its relationship with the EU.

Mr Speaker, last week’s outcome will make renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the European Union harder and it certainly makes the stakes higher.

There will always be huge challenges in this long campaign to reform the European Union.

But with determination I believe we can deliver.

We cut the EU Budget.

We got Britain out of the bail-out schemes.

We’ve achieved a fundamental reform of the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy and made a start on cutting EU red tape.

We’re making real progress on the single market – and on the free trade deals that are vital for new growth and jobs in Britain.

My colleagues on the European Council know that Britain wants and needs reform…

…and they know that Britain sticks to its position.

Mr Speaker, in the European elections people cried out for change across the continent.

They are intensely frustrated and they deserve a voice.

Britain will be the voice of those people.

We will carry on standing up for our principles, carry on defending our national interest and carry on fighting with all we have to reform the EU over the next few years.

And at the end of 2017, it will not be me, this Parliament or Brussels that decides Britain’s future in the European Union.

It will be the British people.

I commend this statement to the House.

David Cameron – 2014 Press Conference Following June European Council

davidcameron

Below is the text of the press conference made by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, following the European Council in June 2014. The press conference was held on 27th June 2014.

This European Council has been dominated by discussions about the EU’s direction over the next 5 years. And specifically the decision on the next President of the European Commission.

But before I turn to that, we took an important step today towards stronger relations with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The agreements, signed today, reflect our commitment to supporting these countries as they undertake reforms that will strengthen their economies, bolster democracies and make our European continent more stable.

President Poroshenko joined us for discussions today. We welcome his peace plan and fully support his efforts to build a peaceful and stable Ukraine.

The onus now is on Russia. The ceasefire has been expanded. So now Russia must: press the separatists to observe a genuine ceasefire; release hostages and return occupied border posts to the Ukrainian authorities.

And we’ve said clearly that if we don’t see concrete progress then we remain willing to impose further sanctions on Russia.

On the Commission President, from the outset, I have been clear where I stand on this issue.

I firmly believe in the principle that the European Council should be the one to propose the candidate.

And that if you believe in a principle you should stand up for it.

That’s why I stood firm in my opposition today.

I believe that by working together we could have found an alternative candidate who commanded the support of every member state, agreeing together on the best way forward.

That has been the practice the EU has followed on every single occasion until today.

And I think it is a serious mistake that other leaders decided to abandon that approach today.

It’s why I insisted that the European Council took a vote.

If the European Council – the elected heads of government – are going to allow the European Parliament to choose the next President of the European Commission, I wanted it on the record that Britain opposed that.

The Council voted to nominate Jean Claude Juncker as the next President of the European Commission. Britain and Hungary opposed.

We must accept the result and Britain will now work with the Commission President, as we always do, to secure our national interest.

But let me absolutely clear. This is a bad day for Europe It risks undermining the position of national governments. It risks undermining the power of national parliaments. And it hands power to the European Parliament.

It is therefore important that the European Council has agreed to review what has happened today and consider how we handle the appointment of the Commission President next time around.

Turning to the future.

This whole process has reinforced my conviction that Europe needs to change.

That was a clear message delivered by voters at the European elections.

Europe has to change to succeed.

And if you are deadly serious that you want change – as I am – then you don’t back down when a vote goes against you.

Voters need leaders who are willing to fight for change, whatever the obstacles, whatever the frustrations, whatever the cost in the short term.

Leaders who – however difficult things get – don’t give up, but resolve to persevere.

So when I say Europe needs reform, and the UK’s place in Europe needs reform, I mean it.

And I argued hard for reform today.

In respect of the Council’s mandate for the Commission for the next 5 years we made, with support from like-minded allies, some progress.

It makes absolutely clear that we must focus our efforts on building stronger economies and creating jobs.

That the EU should only act where it makes a real difference. Where it doesn’t, it should leave it to nation-states.

It states that national parliaments should have a stronger role.

And that we must deal with the abuse of freedom of movement by those who move to claim, not to work – an issue which so worries our peoples.

We have also broken new ground in 2 specific areas.

For the first time all my 27 fellow heads of government have agreed explicitly that they will need to address Britain’s concerns about the EU.

It is in the agreed conclusions the European Council issued today.

The conclusions also state explicitly that ever closer union allows for different paths of integration for different countries and respects the wish of those – like Britain – who do not want deeper integration.

This is an important statement but it is not the end of the matter.

Far from it. The campaign to reform the EU has a long way to go. But on this issue of ever closer union, we have made a start.

Much more change will be needed during the next few years but I welcome the fact that we have embedded these issues in the Council’s mandate to the Commission from the start.

So while Europe has taken one big step backwards today with their choice of Commission President, I have made some small steps towards securing a new relationship for Britain in the EU.

Of course much more is needed. And that will require hard, patient, determined effort in the coming months. It will be tough but I believe it is still possible.

Today’s outcome is not the one I wanted. And it makes it harder, and the stakes higher.

This is an important stand, not a last stand.

My colleagues on the Council know I am deadly serious about EU reform. I keep my word. If I say I’m not going to back down I won’t.

This is going to be a long, tough fight and sometimes you have to be ready to lose a battle to win a war.

It has only stiffened my resolve to fight for reform in the EU, because it is crying out for it.

It has made me even more determined to make the EU address the concerns of all those voters who are intensely frustrated with it and who demand better, because they deserve a voice.

Britain will be the voice of those people. We will stand up for them, and make sure they are heard. And we will not be put off by what has happened here today.

Britain is going to work with intensity and with grit to reform the EU day in day out over the next few years and until we achieve it.

We have shown today that we won’t be put off from that task, we won’t be cowed, we won’t be silenced.

Because the status quo is not right for the EU. And it is certainly not right for Britain.

It is has got to change.

And at the end of 2017, it will not be me, it will not be the House of Commons, it won’t be Brussels who decide about Britain’s future in the European Union.

It will be the British people.

It will be their choice, and their choice alone.

David Cameron – 2014 Statement on the G7 Summit

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Below is the text of the speech made by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons, London, on 11th June 2014.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on last week’s G7 summit in Brussels.

This was a G7 rather than a G8 because of Russia’s unacceptable actions in Ukraine. Right from the outset, the G7 nations have been united in support for Ukraine and its right to choose its own future, and we have sent a firm message that Russia’s actions have been totally at odds with the values of our group of democracies.

At the summit, we kept up the pressure on Russia. We agreed that the status quo is unacceptable and the continuing destabilisation of eastern Ukraine must stop. We insisted that Russia must recognise the legitimate election of President Poroshenko; it must stop arms crossing the border into Ukraine; and it must cease support for separatist groups. We agreed that wide-ranging economic sanctions should remain on the table if Russia did not follow this path of de-escalation, or if it launched a punitive trade war with Ukraine in response to Kiev proceeding with the trade aspects of its association agreement with the European Union.

I made those points directly to President Putin when I met him in Paris on the eve of the D-Day commemorations. The inauguration of President Poroshenko has created a new opportunity for diplomacy to help to establish a proper relationship between Ukraine and Russia. I urged President Putin to ensure that this happens. It is welcome that he met President Poroshenko in Normandy and that Moscow and Kiev are now engaging each other again. It is important that we continue to do what we can to sustain the positive momentum. We also agreed to help Ukraine to achieve greater energy security by diversifying its supplies.

The G7 also continued the work we began last year at Lough Erne to deal with the cancer of corruption, with further agreements on what I call the 3 T’s of greater transparency, fairer taxes and freer trade. We made good progress in working towards common global standards of transparency in extractive industries, we agreed to push forwards with establishing new international rules to stop companies artificially shifting their profits across borders to avoid taxes and we agreed to make a concerted push on finalising bilateral trade deals as soon as possible. These included the EU-Canada and EU-Japan deals, but of course also the EU-US deal, which we launched at Lough Erne last summer. I believe this is one of the greatest opportunities to turbo-charge the global economy and could be worth up to £10 billion for Britain alone. With these agreements, the Lough Erne agenda on transparency, tax and trade has been hard-wired into these international summits for many years to come.

There was also a good discussion on climate change, where the recent announcements by the US make a potential agreement next year more achievable, and we should do what we can to make that happen.

In my bilateral meeting with President Obama, we discussed what I believe is the greatest threat to our security: how we counter extremism and the terrorist threat to our people at home and abroad. We agreed to intensify our efforts to address the threat of foreign fighters travelling to and from Syria, which is now the top destination in the world for jihadists. And here in Britain, my Right Hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be introducing a new measure to enable prosecution of those who plan and train for terrorism abroad. In Libya, we are fulfilling our commitment to train the Libyan security forces, with the first tranche of recruits arriving in the United Kingdom yesterday. On Nigeria, we reaffirmed our commitment to support President Jonathan’s government and the wider region in confronting the evil of Boko Haram. We continue to help address the tragedy of the abducted schoolgirls.

Finally, in all my recent meetings with European leaders and again at the summit in Sweden yesterday, there was discussion about the top jobs in Europe. I believe the European elections sent a clear message right across the continent. The European Union needs to change. It is vital that politicians across Europe respond to the concerns of their people. That means having institutions in Europe that understand the need for reform and it means having people at the head of these institutions who understand that if things go on as they have done, the European Union is not going to work properly for its citizens.

Quite apart from the entirely valid concerns about the proposed people in question, there is a fundamental point of principle on which we must not budge. As laid down in EU law, it is for the European Council to make its own nomination for President. This is the body that is made up of the elected leaders of the European nations, and it is not for the European Parliament to try to impose its will on the democratically elected leaders of 28 member states.

Prime Minister Reinfeldt, Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands, Chancellor Merkel and I also agreed on the work programme for the new Commission: completing the single market; energising trade deals; and making further progress on deregulation – a clear focus on jobs and growth. We also agreed the Commission must work together to address the abuse of free movement, so that people move across Europe for work but not for welfare. These were important agreements from like-minded European leaders who share my determination to deliver a reformed European Union.

Finally, amidst the various meetings of the last week I was able to attend the very special commemorations for the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy. Attending the vigil at Pegasus Bridge – marking the moment the first glider touched down on French soil – was a fitting moment to reflect on the importance of our collective defence, something that will be at the heart of the NATO summit in Wales this September. But above all, it was a moment to remember the sheer bravery and sacrifice of all those who gave their lives for our future.

The veterans who made it to Normandy are quite simply some of the most remarkable people I have ever had the privilege and pleasure of meeting. I will never forget the conversations that I had that night and indeed the next day. Our gratitude for their service and sacrifice must never wane, and neither should our resolve to protect the peace that they fought for. I commend this statement to the House.

David Cameron – 2014 Press Conference with the US President

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Below is the text of the press conference between David Cameron and Barack Obama at the G7 meeting in Brussels on 5th June 2014.

Good afternoon.

I’m delighted to be here with Barack today.

As we stand here together in Europe, on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, we should remind the world of the strength and steadfastness of the bond between the United Kingdom and the United States.

70 years ago, our countries stood like 2 rocks of freedom and democracy in the face of Nazi tyranny.

70 years ago tonight, thousands of young British and American soldiers, with their Canadian and Free French counterparts, were preparing to cross the Channel in the greatest liberation force that the world has ever known.

Those young men were united in purpose: to restore democracy and freedom to continental Europe, to free by force of arms ancient European nations, and to allow the nations and peoples of Europe to chart their destiny in the world.

Thousands of those young men paid the ultimate price, and we honour their memory today and tomorrow. Shortly after D-Day, my own grandfather was wounded and came home.

We will never forget what they did, and the debt that we owe them for the peace and the freedom we enjoy on this continent.

Today, in a new century, our 2 democracies continue to stand for and to uphold the same values in the world.

Democracy. Liberty. The rule of law.

And day in, day out, our people work together to uphold those values right across the globe.

And that approach has been at the heart of what we have discussed here at the G7 and in our bilateral meeting today.

Trade

We have talked about one of the greatest opportunities we have to turbo-charge the global economy by concluding trade deals, including the EU-US deal which would be the biggest of them all.

A transatlantic trade and investment partnership that would create growth and jobs. A deal that could be worth up to £10 billion a year for Britain alone.

It would help to secure our long-term economic success and generate a better future for hard-working families back at home.

That is why I was so determined to launch negotiations a year ago in Lough Erne.

Since we have made steady progress but we have got to keep our eyes on the huge prize on offer and not get bogged down.

Extremism

We also discussed what I believe is the greatest threat we face.

How we counter extremism and the threat that terrorist groups operating elsewhere pose to the safety of our people both at home and abroad.

This year, we will bring our troops home from Afghanistan. They can be proud of what they have achieved over the last decade – denying terrorists a safe haven from which to plot attacks against Britain or the United States.

But at the same time as we have reduced the threat from that region, so Al-Qaeda franchises have grown in other parts of the world. Many of these groups are focused on the countries where they operate but they still pose a risk to our people, our businesses and our interests.

Barack and I share the same view of how we tackle this threat in the fragile regions of the world where terrorist networks seek a foothold.

As I have said before, our approach must be tough, patient, intelligent and based on strong international partnerships.

So:

When it comes to Syria, now the number one destination for jihadists anywhere in the world, we have agreed to intensify our efforts to address the threat of foreign fighters travelling to and from Syria.

We will be introducing new measures in the UK to prosecute those who plan and train for terrorism abroad. And here at the G7, we have agreed to do more to work with Syria’s neighbours to strengthen border security and to disrupt the terrorist financing that funds these jihadist training camps.

In Libya, we want to help the government as it struggles to overcome the disastrous legacy of Qadhafi’s misrule and to build a stable, peaceful and prosperous future.

Barack and I have both each recently appointed envoys who will be working together to support efforts to reach a much needed political settlement.

And we are fulfilling our commitment to train the Libyan security forces, with the first tranche of recruits due to begin their training in the UK this month.

In Nigeria, we are both committed to supporting the Nigerian government and its neighbours as they confront the scourge of Boko Haram.

The kidnap of the Chibok girls was an act of pure evil. And Britain and the United States have provided immediate assistance in the search.

In the longer term, we stand ready to provide more practical assistance to help the Nigerians and the region to strengthen their defence and security institutions and to develop the expertise needed to counter these barbaric extremists.

Ukraine

And finally, we had an important discussion on Ukraine and relations with Russia.

From the outset of this crisis, the G7 nations have has stood united, clear in our support for the Ukrainian people and their right to choose their own future and firm in our message to President Putin that Russia’s actions are completely unacceptable and totally at odds with the values of this group of democracies.

That is why Russia no longer has a seat at the table here with us.

At this summit, we were clear about 3 things.

First, the status quo is unacceptable. The continuing destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine must stop.

Second, there are a set of things that need to happen.

President Putin must:

– recognise the legitimate election of President Poroshenko

– he must stop arms crossing the border into Ukraine

– he must cease Russian support for separatist groups

And third, if these things don’t happen then sectoral sanctions will follow.

Next month will be vital in judging if President Putin has taken these steps.

And that’s what I will urge President Putin to do when I meet him later today.

Finally, we discussed the cancer eating away at the world’s economic and political systems: corruption.

Corruption is the arch-enemy of democracy and development. The best way to fight corruption and to drive growth is through what I call the 3 Ts: greater transparency, fair tax systems and freer trade.

That was at the heart of our G8 agenda in Lough Erne and today we agreed to push for more action on fair tax systems, freer trade and greater transparency, things that are now hard wired into these international gatherings and for many years to come.

David Cameron – 2014 Speech at Vaisakhi Reception

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Below is the text of the speech made by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, at the 2014 Vaisakhi Reception held at Downing Street, London, on 7th April 2014.

Prime Minister

Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen; well, a very warm welcome. I think this is my fourth Vaisakhi party and I’m very proud to be the first Prime Minister to hold regular annual Vaisakhi parties here in Downing Street. So you’re all very, very welcome.

Now, there’s really 2 parts to tonight. Part is celebrating Sikhism and celebrating your faith and all your faith brings to you as people and to our country. But second is celebrating the immense contribution that Sikhs have made to Britain over what is now 160 years. That is when the first Sikh arrived, Maharaja Duleep Singh, who were – whose children actually had Queen Victoria as their godmother. I can’t promise that to everybody, but it is a remarkable – a remarkable story.

And all I wanted to say tonight was just to reflect on the 3 pillars of Sikhism, on the 3 pillars of your remarkable faith.

The first, worship, Nam Japna: devotion to God. As I say, I’m proud that we hold this reception here in Downing Street every year and I’m proud of what the Sikh faith brings to important parts of our United Kingdom. I’m thinking particularly of the 8 Sikh schools we now have in Britain and I’m particularly proud that 5 of them are free schools introduced under this government’s policy that has allowed people of faith with great ideas for running good schools to establish those schools and provide a great education for your children. So let’s hear it for those free schools and for those Sikh schools here in Britain.

Now, British Sikhs have been an absolute model in terms of integrating into our communities and playing a role in our communities; whether it is in our armed forces, whether it is serving in government, whether it is working in business, whether it is representing us brilliantly on the cricket field, there’s hardly an area of natural life where British Sikhs haven’t made a huge impact. But I believe as well as integrate, it’s very important in a tolerant, diverse and compassionate nation that we allow different faith and religious groups to keep separate to them what they think is really important about their faith.

And I hope you will agree this government has always tried to do that. For instance, we stopped the unnecessary searching of turbans at airports, something we’re proud to do. And today I can announce – today I can announce that while there has always been for someone – there has been for some time an exception that mean Sikhs don’t have to wear hard hats on construction sites, I can announce today that from now on Sikhs will not have to wear hard hats at any places of work in our country, and I think that is an important recognition.

I also understand the importance of all the sacred places that British Sikhs have established, obviously here in our country where your gurdwaras are places of worship, places of education, places of great community cohesion, but I also understand the importance of sacred places on other side – on the other side of the world.

I will never forget the visit that I made to Amritsar and to the Golden Temple; I spoke about it last year as one of the most peaceful and tranquil and beautiful places I’ve ever had the honour and privilege to visit. I know how much hurt and pain there still is in the Sikh community worldwide about what happened at the Golden Temple, and that is why as soon as that information came out about what had happened I immediately ordered that inquiry and published that inquiry properly so that people could see whether there was any British role. But I understand the pain and the hurt that that whole episode has caused, but what I would say to you is that it’s so important we all demonstrate our understanding of the importance of Amritsar, the importance of the Golden Temple, to your faith.

Now, the second pillar of Sikhism, work, Kirat Karni, working hard, something I know – I’m sure my pronunciation is terrible. You should hear my French, that’s even – but it is – it is such a feature of one of the values that British Sikhs bring to our country, the incredible devotion to work in business that is so well known. I think of people like Tony Deep – he’s normally here, but of course he’s so busy running his business that he’s just sent some of his children this time – but I think of that – also, the hard work so many Sikhs now do in our parliament. Not enough – I’m proud that we have in Paul Uppal a British Sikh on Conservative benches, Paul is here working hard – but we shouldn’t rest until we see more British Sikhs on green benches and red benches, until we see more British Sikhs at the top of every one of our organisations – whether that is our army, or our judiciary – not because we should believe in tokenism, but because we believe – I believe – that we won’t access the talent of our country unless we demonstrate that everyone from every background and faith can get to the top of any organisation that they choose, and that is so important for our country.

This year, as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War, it is also perhaps worth saying something specific about how British Sikhs have served in our armed forces with so much devotion, bravery and courage over so many years. We must be teaching our children in the year to come about the role that the 1.2 million soldiers from the Indian subcontinent played in the First World War. Stories like the story of Manta Singh, who fought at The Battle of Neuve Chapelle, that massive battle on the Western Front in 1915, and when his English colleague was wounded alongside him, he picked him up, carried him, took him to the dressing station while being wounded himself, and then sadly, tragically died afterwards. Stories of heroism, stories of valour; the Sikhs have always had this extraordinary courage and bravery, and it’s been demonstrated so often in the British Armed Forces.

I always remember when – the first time I ever spoke in a gurdwara in 1996 in Stafford. I was fighting the general election in Stafford; I think it’s fair to say I fought Stafford and Stafford fought back pretty vigorously. But I remember before I got to my feet in the gurdwara, a friend who had got me to go there said, “You’re going to be asked to make a speech.” And I said, “Well, what on earth am I going to say?” And he said, “Well, just remember to say that British Sikhs are incredibly hard-working and remember to say that they’ve won more Victoria Crosses than any other ethnic group in the British Army, and you’ll never disappoint.”

Now, the third and final thing I want to say, the third and – the third pillar – and I’m going to get this one wrong – Vand Chakna, commitment to community.

But it is actually – when we think about what British Sikhs do, not just in business, not just in our military but in terms of building strong communities, the community role that the gurdwara plays, but the community role that you all play is so remarkable. I remember reading about those stories in the London riots where Sikhs didn’t just try and protect their temples, they protected other religion’s places of worship too.

Today in this room a little bit earlier we had people from across the country who had shown extraordinary public service in the floods earlier this year, and we had then Sikhs who had gone out of their way to travel across our country and help people – whether they were in Somerset, whether they were in the Thames Valley, whether they were in East Anglia – who needed help. Serving the community, putting back into the community is something deep in the heart of all British Sikhs. So on this, the fourth Vaisakhi party here in Number 10 Downing Street, can I pay tribute again to your faith which has delivered so much to this country and to our world, and above all, can I pay tribute to the role that British Sikhs play in building our country.

We are involved today in an enormous fight for the future of Britain, turning our country around, making sure our economy grows once again. And at the heart of that is the importance of business, enterprise and hard work. Those are values dear to British Sikhs. They are the values that Britain needs more of if we’re going to be a success, so please, keep being all that you are, keep doing all that you’re doing and keep building the great success of our country, of your religion, of your community. You’re hugely welcome. Thank you.

Speaker

Thank you, Prime Minister. Thank you, Prime Minister, for those beautiful words. I just would like to say a few words. We’re going to sing a hymn now and I just wanted to explain a bit about the – the Shabad or the hymn that we are going sing now.

So, Vaisakhi is an age-old festival from the field – from the fields of the Punjab, and it marks the first harvest of the year. It’s a time of taking stock, renewal and rebirth, as seeds are sown for the future and new life blossoms all around the spring – in the spring air.

In the spirit of rebirth and renewal, the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, performed the first initiation back in 1699 on 30 March, thus creating the Khalsa, the brotherhood of the pure. He envisaged a perfect human being, high in ideals, impeccable morals and a perfect blend of saintly virtues and warrior spirit. The Shabad that we will be singing – the hymn that we will be singing – is that written by Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself in approximately 1699, describing his vision of a perfect Khalsa Sikh, a saint soldier servant of humanity. The second – and it reminds us to look within ourselves and how we measure up to becoming better humans through the service of others.

I would just like to say as well in the tradition of [inaudible], we humbly ask that those of you who are able to please cover your heads and remove your shoes and – please remain silent during the recital. Thank you.

David Cameron – 2014 Speech at Skanska

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Below is the text of the speech made by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, at Skanska on 22nd April 2014.

Mike Putnam

I hope everybody had a very good Easter. I guess you weren’t expecting something like this when you arrived back. We’ve also got a number of people from the media here today, so if I could say welcome to Skanska, welcome to Maple Cross; my name is Mike Putnam, I’m the president and CEO of Skanska here in the UK.

Now as a business, we’ve taken the opportunity to link what you’re about to hear with an announcement that we’re looking for 1,500 new jobs here in the UK. And the good news is that that’s right the way across infrastructure, and across building, and it’s to feed the growth that we see ahead. And as I say it links very well to the announcement that you’re about to hear.

Now as an employer, we pride ourselves on our values, and in particular things like green, things like ethics, people development, and in particular with people development, developing people on the job, but also encouraging diversity and inclusion. Now all of that plays very well into these 1,500 new roles that we’re looking for. And sticking with green for a moment, many of you know that the success that we’ve had in recent weeks with Brent civic centre being announced as the greenest public building, achieving the highest BREEAM rating of any building in the UK. And then there was the Financial Times Boldness in Business Award, where we received the award for corporate responsibility and environment, and the great news about that award is that it’s a global award, not just a UK award, where we beat many international brands in the process.

And sticking with green, as you know I co‑chair the green construction board, alongside the minister Michael Fallon, and actually some of our team, and I think some in here today, have been in the deck offices looking at how to help them from a green retrofit perspective. Anyway that’s enough from me, what I’d like to do now is introduce David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Thank you.

Prime Minister

Well thank you very much; thank you for that welcome. I’m delighted to be here at Skanska, you are helping quite literally to build Britain’s future with the work that you’ve done on Crossrail, the countless hospitals that you’ve built, some of which I’ve been to see, the M1 junction that we’ll be visiting later on this afternoon, and all of the great buildings that you’re putting up in our capital city and elsewhere. And infrastructure is an absolutely vital part of our economic plan, and I just wanted to say 3 things before handing over to the Chancellor, and then we’ll take some questions.

And the first thing is this. Look, we inherited a very difficult economic situation in this country, in terms of debt and deficit and unemployment, and I’m not standing here claiming that we’ve sorted it all out; far from it. What I would say though, point one, is we have a plan, and we’re delivering on that plan. The plan was about getting the deficit down, and it’s down by a third; next year it’ll be down by a half. The plan was about getting Britain back to work, and we’ve got 1.5 million more people in work than when I walked through the doors of Number 10 Downing Street. It’s a plan about cutting people’s taxes, to allow you to spend more of your hard‑earned money as you choose, and you can now earn £10,000 before you start paying income tax, next year it’ll be £10,500.

And it’s a plan about delivering the best schools and skills and infrastructure for our country, because those things are vital for the future. Now there are a quarter of a million fewer children in failing schools than 4 years ago; we’ve still got a lot more work to do, though, on all of those items. And fifthly, it’s a plan about cutting immigration, and controlling and curbing welfare. Again we haven’t solved all the problems, but we’ve got a cap on the amount of welfare a family can receive for the first time ever, about half a million fewer people on out of work benefits, and in terms of immigration, we’ve cut net migration into this country by around a fifth over the last 4 years.

So that’s the first point I want to make. The second point I want to make is that infrastructure is an absolutely vital part of this plan. It’s no good trying to run a modern competitive economy unless you build modern competitive infrastructure. Now we haven’t solved all the problems again, but if you look at our spending, this year we’re going to be spending something like £36 billion on plans getting under way; 200 projects will complete this year; another 200 will start this year. If you look at our roads, we’re building more than any time since the 1970s. If you look at our railways, we’re building at a rate higher than any time since Victorian times.

Obviously there’s HS2, but I always say to people about high speed rail, we’re actually going to be spending 3 times more in the next Parliament on other road and rail projects than we will be spending on HS2; it’s not taking up all the money, but it is a vital piece of infrastructure. And this infrastructure, it’s absolutely vital that it’s private sector and public sector. We’ve got to modernise our energy infrastructure, modernise our ports, modernise our roads, hospitals, schools, all of that is a vital part of our economic plan.

Third and final point from me is I’ve given you lots of figures, and believe me I can probably give you even more figures, but in the end, what matters more than the figures is what lies behind the figures. Those 1.5 million more people in work, that is 1.5 million people with the stability and security that a regular pay‑packet brings. Those 400,000 new businesses, that is 400,000 people who are setting out to try and achieve their dream of being in charge of their own destiny. That cut in the deficit means that we’re not going to have to ask our children and grandchildren to pay so much for our debt. So it’s the values of stability, security, peace of mind, those are the things that really matter in terms of sticking to this economic plan and delivering it.

And rather like in construction, when I know you have to say, nothing is done until the whole job is finished, that is absolutely the attitude that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and I take. We’re well through this plan, it’s working well, but we’ve got to stick to it and we’ve got to deliver it. The job isn’t done, and that’s why, in a year’s time, we’ll be asking you to give us a chance to complete the job. Now let’s hand over to the man that is helping to deliver that plan, whose been a key architect of that plan, Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Well David, Prime Minister, thank you very much for that, and thank you everyone for coming together here. And what fantastic news we’ve just heard about the 1,500 jobs that are going to be created by this company over the next couple of years. And that is not only a vote of confidence in Britain and the British economy; it’s also, as David was saying, a vote of confidence in economic security, and the economic security that that is going to bring to the families who will get those jobs.

We are working through a long term economic plan; we found this country in a very difficult situation 4 years ago, where we were borrowing £1 for every £4, and people were starting to ask questions around the world about Britain’s ability to pay its way, and I think people had bigger questions about Britain’s long term future. And we said that we had to take some difficult decisions, we explained that to you and we explained it to the British people, we’ve taken those difficult decisions, and I think you can begin to see that the long term economic plan is working. You see it with the jobs being created, you see it with the lower inflation, you see it with the higher growth.

Now we have got to go on working through that plan, and a big part of that plan, as the Prime Minister was saying, is infrastructure. Because in the end as a country, we’ve got to be able to trade with the rest of the world through modern ports, we’ve got to transport goods through modern railways and roads, we’ve got to be able to use the technologies of the future like broadband; and you are involved as a company in all of this work. Now, in the end what can government do on infrastructure? I think it needs to do these things.

First of all, it needs to make sure it can pay for things, and you can only do that if you’ve got a control on the public finances, otherwise your run out of money and things get cancelled and you’re back to square one. Now we have got control of the public finances, and that means we’ve been able to spend more than the plans we inherited on infrastructure, on the roads and the railways that you were just hearing about. That’s crucial; that’s a crucial part of what you’ve got to do. If you’re not, for example, making savings in welfare, then you can’t afford to build those extra roads or lay that extra broadband that we were just talking about. So the first thing is you’ve got to have control of your public finances, and we’ve got control back of our public finances, but the job’s not finished there, we’re still borrowing too much. That’s the first thing you’ve got to do.

Second thing, you’ve got to inspire confidence. With a company like this, you can go anywhere in the world. The management team at Skanska, they’re making decisions about whether they invest in America or China or other countries in Europe, and you’ve got to be a country that they look at and say, you are the go‑to country. And that means confidence: confidence in the economic team that is managing the economy, confidence in the workforce, in its skills and its ambition, and that’s why it’s great news that your company’s making that vote of confidence in the UK. And that’s what we are seeking to make: a climate of confidence in Britain.

The third thing you’ve got to do, because you know this, the projects you’re involved in may take a very long time to come to fruition. You’re working on the Crossrail scheme. That’s been discussed for many years, incredibly complicated planning, probably about the most complicated infrastructure anywhere in Europe at the moment. You’ve got to set out your long term plan for infrastructure, that’s what we’re doing more of today, talking about the 200 projects that are going to be completed this year, the 200 projects that are going to start this year – roads, railways, the Northern Hub scheme which you’re involved in in the North West of England, the flood defences in Exeter, the Mersey gateway bridge, the improvements on the M1 and the A1, all over the country. We have set out the pipeline, the long term plan for infrastructure, so you as a company can make decisions and you as people working in this company can make decisions about your own jobs and your own careers, and where you want to go in this company. That is the third component of having an infrastructure plan. It is much more than just a list; it is part of a long term economic plan.

Now as I said, we came to you 4 years ago, explained the difficult decisions that had to be taken; we’re working through that plan, the job isn’t finished, and now we’re here today to talk to you about how we’re going to go on developing that plan, go on investing in British infrastructure, and with your help and your hard work we will get the job done. Thank you very much; let’s take some questions.

Right, let’s take some questions from members of staff here, and then we will take some questions from the media. And you can direct the questions at myself, the Prime Minister, or both of us. First question over here.

Question

Thanks very much for coming to see us today. I’ve heard a lot about British jobs for British workers in the past; there’s also the skills shortage in the construction industry, and it’s great news that we’re going to be having so many new jobs coming through the pipeline. How can we alleviate people’s fears that the skills for those jobs are in mainland Europe coming across to Britain, and how can we, you know, help to make sure that British jobs do go to British workers?

Prime Minister

I think the short answer is, we’ve got to make sure we’ve got a welfare system that encourages people to work, and we’ve got to have an education skills system that provides young people with the skills that they need to take the jobs that are being created. And I think if you look back 5, 10 years ago, we had a real problem there, in that when we did generate jobs, a lot of those jobs were going to people from overseas coming here, quite understandably, to do those jobs because we weren’t creating a skilled workforce here at home. I think we’ve made some big, big improvements.

During this parliament so far we’ve trained 1.6 million apprentices. I want us to get to 2 million apprenticeships by the end of this parliament, so that we really are training up young people for those jobs. I did one of these meetings at Mercedes the other day, and they said they were trying to take on 5,000 apprentices. And I said, ‘How many people do you have applying?’ And they said, ‘30,000.’ And I thought, how do you decide who gets the apprentices? They said, ‘The trouble is, of the 30,000 that apply, not enough have the basic English and maths.’

We’ve got to remind young people that English and maths are vocational subjects. There isn’t a job – I would say to my children, there isn’t a job in the world that doesn’t require English and maths. My son said, ‘What about football players?’ I said, ‘Well, you’ve got to be able to read the contract, and you’ve got to be able to count the money!’ Everything requires English and maths. So if we get our school system right, and get the apprentice system right, and we have a welfare system that encourages work, then every confidence that we can see those new jobs going to young British people coming out of school, coming out of college, with the skills they need. A lot of planning. We want to work with you.

You know, if you look at what we’re doing with Crossrail, we created a tunnelling academy. We’re training experts in tunnelling in Britain, and as soon as Crossrail is completed, we can then move them on to the HS2 project, where there’s going to be a massive amount of tunnelling, and there’ll be other projects that follow that. So let’s plan with industry the skills that we need, and make sure that you’re working with us, and working with the colleges, to deliver those vital skills. Okay. Lady here?

Question

We’re delighted to hear about the level of investment. How’s the government going to support easing the procurement process, so that this investment actually turns into reality of construction.

Prime Minister

And shorten the times, too, that’s part of the problem. Chancellor?

Chancellor of the Exchequer

The short answer to that is, you’ve got to have the confidence in the government’s procurement plans. In other words, we’re not going out on speculative tenders that you have to invest huge sums of money in, and then the tenders may not ever materialise, and I know there have been some problems in the past with that. The purpose of setting out this list of projects that we’re aiming to undertake – and these, by the way, are not just government funded projects; these are also privately funded projects, or projects where there’s part government money, part private money, private finance.

By setting all of that out, you as a company can work out where the main work is going to be. You can build up your procurement expertise in that particular space, or expand your department, and then have confidence that that project is actually going to be built. You know, if I didn’t have control on the public finances, you’d say well hold on, he’s going to run out of money in 2 years’ time and it’s all going to be cancelled, so why are we bothering with this UK project? Or if you thought well, it’s quite an unstable economic situation in the UK, I’m not sure we want to be putting our bets there.

So the purpose of what I’m saying there is that in procurement, of course you want simpler processes, easier to apply, you’ve got to try and make it easy to comply with all the European rules and UK rules around that, and we have a very open place where you can go and bid – I think one of the great advantages of the UK is, you know, whatever company you are, you can come here and invest and help us build our infrastructure. But ultimately, if you don’t have the economic plan behind it, you don’t have confidence that the project’s actually going to be built and paid for, then you’re wasting your money on procurement and you’d soon spot that.

Prime Minister

Simplifying the planning system as well, has been another major reform of this government – not always popular; I think a lot of the things that the Chancellor and I do are not popular, but they’re right. Simplifying the planning system, making it faster, is absolutely essential if we’re going to build that infrastructure that the country needs. Let’s see who else has got any questions, up here on the balconies, we’ll have questions from anywhere. Lady here – hold on, here’s a microphone.

Question

Following on from the theme about the 1,500 jobs, how do you think that UK government can help Skanska and construction attract more women into construction, and more diverse groups into construction?

Prime Minister

This is something I think, for both of us. Frankly, we should do our part by making it easier to train and employ people. So from next year, for instance, when you employ someone, you’re not going to have to pay National Insurance if they’re under 21. We should be making sure there’s proper careers guidance in school, and there’s a new organisation, the National Careers Service, NCS, in our schools, providing the information for young people about the careers that are available, in things like engineering, construction, careers many people in this room have taken on.

But we do need your help. We need businesses to get into schools and inspire people about what you do. Because, you know, our teachers do an incredible job in schools, and they give brilliant advice to young people. But they give particularly good advice about the path they followed, which has tended to be school, A‑Levels, fill out the UCAS form, go to university… I don’t think we’ve been as good in our schools about giving information about apprenticeships and about vocational training. And we do need businesses to get behind the National Careers Service, get into the schools, and inspire people about what can be done. And I think more women in engineering and construction – it is changing, but we still need to do more, but nothing succeeds like seeing the role model. You know, seeing the person who decided on that career going into the schools. I’m sure Skanska does have a project like that, but we’re very happy to work with you to do more. Sir?

Question

Prime Minister, we invest in as well as build infrastructure. And on Thursday, I’ve got to sit in front of our main board and put to them an investment proposition for a sizeable investment with a utility company in green energy, onshore wind. One of the questions they’re going to ask is about political risk, given some of the hard knocks we’ve had on cancelled projects. What reassurance can I give them on your position on ongoing support for renewable energy in the UK, please?

Prime Minister

Well, I think the overall – the big picture is that we have put our money where our mouth is. We said we’re going to be the greenest government ever; we set up a Green Investment Bank, which is investing in these schemes, and we’ve set out long term plans so that you can see the subsidy that is available for renewable energy. So we’ve got a levy control framework that goes out into 2020 and beyond in terms of the amount of money that is going to go into renewable energies. We’ve also made some very long term decisions, for instance in nuclear power, with the first nuclear power station, Hinkley Point, for 30 years going ahead.

So I think you can say to Skanska, ‘Look there is a long‑term plan, there’s long‑term funds available, the off‑shore wind industry that Britain has is now the biggest in the world.’ We’ve got the largest off‑shore wind farm anywhere in the world built off the coast of the UK and another one coming on stream, almost as big very, very shortly. In terms of on‑shore wind, obviously there will come a time when we will have built enough to meet all our targets and so I’ve always said with subsidies, we shouldn’t keep subsidies for longer than they are necessary and so that is something we will be looking at. But I would argue that if you look anywhere around Europe, I would challenge anyone to find a more open, more attractive set of renewable incentives for energy in this country. I don’t know, George do you want to add to that? You’ve been very involved in this.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

We need investment in renewable energy, we’re absolutely clear about that. We need a mix of energy in this country. We need it in nuclear, we need it in renewables, we need it in gas, five generation oil. We want to make sure that all our eggs aren’t in one basket and again, in the plans we have set out, we’re very clear about the energy projects we are seeking investment in. We have this regime, as the Prime Minister was saying, a levy‑control framework and the electricity market review.

Now they’re – it’s quite technical but what that means in practice for a company like Skanska is you know how much money you are going to get if you commit to this project and there are many other European countries where you can’t get that kind of commitment at the moment. And I thought, you know, a very encouraging decision was the decision of Siemens the other day to make that investment in manufacturing in Hull in renewable energy and wind energy and that is a big company like yours that could go anywhere in the world choosing to put its money in investment into helping the renewable energy supply chain in the UK.

Prime Minister

And they are reckoning that they are going to be producing off‑shore wind turbines, not just for the UK but also exporting elsewhere in Europe. They have based themselves here because they see such an attractive off‑shore wind market.

Next question – lady here. I’ll just get you a microphone – here we go.

Question

I’d just like to ask Mr Osborne, if Scotland do decide to go independent later this year, and given that you have made the commitment that they need to have their own currency, have you thought about how you are going to counter the financial impact on companies like ourselves that obviously work across the whole of the UK? Because there is bound to be some financial implications for us.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Well, the, the short answer is, if Scotland leaves the United Kingdom, that will be economically damaging for the rest of the UK and for Scotland. We don’t want that to happen, but it’s got to be a decision for the people of Scotland and we are setting out some of the economic risks but we are also stressing all the economic benefits that come from Scotland being part of the United Kingdom, the benefits not just for the people of Scotland but the benefits for the rest of the UK and things like an integrated energy market is a really good example of that.

A lot of our renewable energy is, for example, located, as the Prime Minister was saying, off the Scottish coast as a kind of good example of that – oil and gas investment as well. So, you know, I don’t think we should pretend that it wouldn’t be economically damaging but ultimately, this has got to be a decision for the people of Scotland to make and they will make that decision in September. I think – you know, my priority has been to make sure that they are aware of all the facts, that they are aware of the consequences of that decision and then of course they are free to make that decision.

Prime Minister

Okay, let’s have a question from the media.

Question

Prime Minister, Chancellor, a question for you both. You were both referred to memorably as ‘2 posh boys who didn’t know the price of milk’. Obviously a very difficult image at a time of austerity. Is the fact that you are out here for the first time at an event like this, for the first time in 4 years – does that mean that you think you are through that period and you don’t have to worry about that image anymore?

Prime Minister

No, we’re out here because we want to talk about the long‑term economic plan that we are putting in place for this country and we’re delivering for this country. It’s the most important thing that this government is doing. Lots of things that this government is doing I am very proud of but the most important piece of work is turning our economy round and giving all of our people the chance of security, stability, of peace of mind, of a job and of a secure future.

That’s what’s it’s about. It is the most important thing we are doing. We are part of a team that is delivering that and so we are here today to talk about a key part of it, which is infrastructure. That is what today is about, that is what the government’s about, that is what our economic plan is about.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

We are an economic team, led by a very strong Prime Minister and we set out to the country, 4 years ago, the difficult decisions that we had to take, as a country, together. We explained to people what those decisions were. As a team, we have delivered those decisions and as a result you can see the jobs being created in our economy but the work is not done and we have got to go on working through this economic plan and we have got to make a choice as a country about the team we want to help manage the economy but also the direction we want Britain to go in. And I don’t want Britain to go back to square one. I don’t Britain to go back into the mess it was in 4 or 5 years ago. I want Britain to go on working for a plan that is delivering and delivering for this economic team.

Prime Minister

Let’s have the lady at the back there.

Question

Prime Minister and Chancellor, you both talk about taking control of public funds and tax‑payers’ money. The people of Hertfordshire are paying more than £0.5 million for last year’s Bilderberg meeting. I am just wondering, do you think it is right that they are paying £500,000 for it and if so, what benefits have the people of Hertfordshire seen for the meeting?

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Quite a specific question. But look we host events in this country and we want them to be held peacefully and we want them to be held within the rule of law and there are policing costs associated with all sorts of events that are held here and around the country; and we have a police force precisely so we can police events.

Prime Minister

When the costs are excessive, there are opportunities to apply for Home Office help. Very happy to look at this case but normally, as the Chancellor says, police forces are able to cope with events and organisations that come and hold conferences in Hertfordshire or elsewhere and that’s the way the system works.

Let’s – anyone – or people on the balcony feeling left out? Lady up here.

Question

Thanks. What are your thoughts on the recent proposal from the Infrastructure Forum on the extension of the Capital Allowances regime to include structures and related buildings, rather than just plant and machinery?

Prime Minister

Right, Chancellor, sounds like [inaudible] for bringing him along this year.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

We looked very closely at this idea for the most recent budget and in the end you have got, in a budget, a certain amount of money you can deploy and lower taxes. And, when it came to encouraging investment, we looked at that proposal which organisations like the CBI had put to us and we looked at it alongside another proposal which was to increase the Annual Investment Allowance that goes to all companies for investing in things they want.

And in the end, I thought that was the better measure. I thought it was better targeted. I thought it would also help a lot of small- and medium-sized companies as well as big companies like Skanska which are helped by our lower Corporation Tax rate. So in the end in the budget – you know, the budget is about choices and I thought the best tax measure to encourage capital investment is the Annual Investment Allowance and that is why we chose to do that.

Prime Minister

It is worth dwelling on the main rate of Corporation Tax, now at 21%, coming down to 20%. That is going to give us the lowest rate of Corporation Tax of any G7 country. I think it is one of the things that we can use internationally to attract businesses to come and invest in Britain, to come and headquarter in Britain. We have seen some big steps forward with that in recent weeks with companies coming to locate here and I think, you know, attractive low rates of tax that then companies actually pay – I think that is the right way for a country to go and the Chancellor has been absolutely solid in delivering those tax reductions year after year as a really important choice because, in the end, we want private sector jobs, a private sector‑led recovery so that we can afford the public services our country needs and a low rate of Corporation Tax is absolutely key to delivering that.

Anyone on the top floor or are you – okay, no microphones up there so you will have to shout but if you, if you feel inclined, put your hand up and let’s take another question from over here. Gentleman in the stripy shirt.

Question

Question for the Chancellor. With the 45% tax rate for income – income tax, the – if that had been kept in line with inflation, at what level would that be now and also when will that difference be redressed?

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Well, there are, there are 2 things here. First of all there is the rate of tax so we inherited a 50% income tax rate which had just been put in before the election and I thought that was sending a terrible signal to the rest of the world about Britain as a place to invest and you can see some other European countries that have tried those very high tax rates and it has done huge damage to their economies, not just because of the actual impact of the tax but the signal it sends to the rest of the world, to the kind of things we have been talking about here, you know – the boardroom in Stockholm, what are they thinking about a country with a high rate of tax like that?

So we took a difficult decision that was not the most popular one we’ve taken, to reduce the tax rate to 45p to make it more competitive and actually now, the richest in our country are paying more as a proportion of income tax than they have ever done before. So we’ve also, by the way, insisted that they do pay taxes and done a lot to crack down on offshore tax avoidances and some of you may have seen some of the adverts in the papers and the like.

On the question of the thresholds you’re asking, this budget was the first time in a number of years we have been able to increase the threshold for which people pay the 40% rate but we’ve also ‑ as the Prime Minister was saying earlier– increased the personal allowance which has just now gone up to £10,000 and higher rate tax payers earning up to £100,000 also benefit from that, so everyone up to £100,000 is paying less income tax.

Prime Minister

It’s an important point, there’s a French Prime Minister that once said, ‘To govern is to choose.’ We had to make a choice. When we did have money to make available, how should we spend it? How should we help people? And the choice we made was to help the lowest paid by taking now over 2 million of them out of income tax altogether by introducing that increase in the personal allowance to £10,000. So to put a sort of figure on this, what this means is that if you’re on minimum wage and you work a full 40 hour week, you see your income tax bill come down by two thirds.

So I think that when you don’t have huge resources to deploy I think it’s right to deploy the resources on the lowest paid in our country, that’s what we’ve done. Cutting the highest rate of tax, the 50p to 45p, as the Chancellor said, that was just about – it was a bad signal. We had a higher top rated tax than other European countries and we thought we were going to lose revenue from that; it was a bad signal for Britain so we took the unpopular decision. But the real weight of our tax reform has been helping the lowest paid in our country, 2 million of who used to pay income tax don’t pay it anymore. Lady at the back?

Question

Two very quick questions if I may, the first relating to the UKIP ad campaign. Now, fellow Conservative MP Nicholas Soames has said today, quote, ‘Their campaign is deeply divisive, offensive and ignorant.’ Is that what you think?

And secondly on a slightly lighter note… you talk there about the importance of things like English and Maths, even football. Any tips there for anyone who takes over from David Moyes today?

Prime Minister

On your second question, as an Aston Villa fan, we’ve had a bit of a ropey season so I think I’ll save the advice on the subject of football management, a subject in which I know precious little. So I’ll leave that out.

Parties have to defend their own advertising campaigns, so they’ll have to do that. What I want to talk about is the issues.

Question

Hi. As part of the spending review, improvements and replacements to schools and other educational establishments was cut. Are there any plans to improve that going forward into the next parliament?

Prime Minister

Yes. We are actually now spending more on school buildings and investment in schools than in previous parliaments, so the investments are there. We inherited a program called ‘Building Schools for the Future’ which actually was very wasteful, very slow, didn’t build a lot of schools, and we put in place much better arrangements that are now getting those additional school buildings and schools built.

But schools – as well as bricks and mortar, they are important. I think it’s important to open up our state sector and have more choice for parents and have new schools coming into the state sector. And what you see with our free schools and converter academies is actually new teams coming in and setting up new schools and offering excellent education within the state sector and that is, I think, absolutely vital for our sector. And that is, I think, absolutely vital for our future; the schools and skills that we have alongside the infrastructure, they will be one of the key determinants of our future economic success. Final question. Still can’t tempt anyone up on the balcony? We’ll have the lady at the back. Sorry.

Question

This is a question for both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. I’m interested to hear whether you support the recommendations made by Sir John Armitt in his review around the need for an independent commission on infrastructure projects in the UK.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

I have a lot of respect for John Armitt who has delivered some of the biggest infrastructure projects in the world. And where I agree with him is, the more you can build cross‑party consensus for some of these big schemes that last many, many years and need the support of all the political parties, we should try and achieve that consensus and I think you’ve seen that happen over the last couple of years on High Speed 2. That was a project, of course that is controversial, particularly for the communities affected by it, but we’ve actually now got support – and this was clear in the recent vote in the House of Commons.

And I think that means that companies like Skanska who probably want to be involved in this have some of the political risk removed, and there’s some of the certainty that I want that the project’s going to go ahead and is going to be built.

And that’s what John Armitt was talking about with his commission, trying to force that political consensus. I think HS2 is a good example of where that is working, and where attempts to break the consensus by some politicians have actually not got anywhere because the rest of the political party concerned said, ‘Well, hold on, we want to go ahead with this thing, which is going to be transformative, for the economic geography of the country?’ So I think John’s idea of trying to get more cross party consensus for these very big infrastructure projects is a good one.

Prime Minister

It would be more important were it not for the fact that we now have a national infrastructure plan that sets out a multiyear program of all the infrastructure we want to see built and so anyone in the construction industry can ask the different political parties, ‘Well do you support what is in the plan?’ And I think not just HS2 but also it’s interesting, Hinckley Point, this massive multiyear investment getting Britain back into operating and constructing nuclear plants. Again, that’s going ahead on an all‑party basis. So I think actually it is very important that we have this cross party support and the National Infrastructure Plan is a way for everyone to see that these projects have support for the future.

Can I thank you all again very much for the warm welcome. Can I thank Skanska for everything you’re doing in terms of building Britain’s future. Thank you also for your commitment to the green economy and also to a subject we haven’t discussed today, but something Britain can be very proud of which is safety in construction. I think one of the most remarkable things about the Olympics is that that extraordinary park, that extraordinary set of stadia was built without the loss of life in terms of construction. I think that really shows another reason people should choose British companies, British based companies and Britain to come and build. And it has been something we can all be extremely proud of.

So thank you for what you do good luck with your 1,500 new members of staff, good luck with the work you’re involved in. We’re looking forward to going to see this junction of the M1; I hope that traffic will be moving smoothly but if it isn’t the work you’re going to do will make it run smoothly in the future. Thank you very much indeed.

David Cameron – 2014 Speech for Flood Volunteers

davidcameron

Below is the text of the speech made by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, at a reception for flood volunteers at Downing Street, London on 7th April 2014.

A really warm welcome to everybody here. We have quite a lot of parties and receptions in this room, but I have to say, there are few that give me as much pleasure as having all of you here this afternoon. Because the fact is, in December, in January, in February, we saw some of the worst British weather we have ever seen. We had coastal surges, we had storms, we had river flooding, surface water flooding and parts of the country underwater for weeks.

But while we saw the worst of British weather we saw the best of British spirit. And that is why all of you are here: because of the community spirit that was shown up and down our country, of people looking out for their neighbours, of helping each other, of giving to each other was truly remarkable.

And I tell you, as Prime Minister, it is such a privilege and an honour to travel the country and see that community spirit at first hand. Whether it was Facebook sites to clean up Chesil Beach; whether it was community cafes in Somerset; whether it was Scouts, Guides and others pitching in; whether it was a group of young Muslims from Yorkshire, who headed all the way down to the Somerset levels. We saw schools and churches used as community hubs; our emergency services were amazing; our military were extraordinary – let’s give them a round of applause. We saw it with flood wardens, with councillors, with volunteers; people of all ages with all skills, everybody asking ‘What can I do?’

And it’s that great quote by Ghandi, who said that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. And I’m sure that there are many, many people here, who, although you had to work incredibly long hours, although you stood in that flood water – and it’s freezing when you stand in flood water for hour after hour – who look back and think of it actually as a time when communities came together, and we all really showed what an incredibly resilient and compassionate and caring people and country that we are.

So all that I wanted to do today really was 3 things. First of all, I wanted to say a very big thank you to all of you; in your own ways you performed extraordinary community service. And the whole country should be really grateful for that. The second thing to say is, please keep at it. Because I hope we won’t have weather quite as bad as that, but the fact is we have seen more extreme weather events, we have had things that we keep being told are 1 in 100, or 1 in 200 year events, and they seem to be happening more frequently. I think my own constituency flooded so badly in 2011, some floods again, this time, but you know, these things just a few years apart. So please keep doing what you’re doing.

There are 2 things I want to say in respect of that. First is, I think there’s been an extraordinary community fundraising effort, in terms of hardship funds to make sure that people who perhaps didn’t have insurance have been able to get support. Today I can announce we are going to put another £500,000 into the community foundations around the country in the areas that have flooded because I think they play a key role in helping people and families get back on their feet.

But there’s a second thing we’re doing which came directly out of a meeting I had during 1 of my flood visits. I remember standing in Surrey, talking to some of our volunteer rescue services, and someone explaining to me that he’d come – as soon as he heard about the floods, he’d come all the way down from Cheshire and he was working 24/7 helping getting people out of their homes and helping people in the very bad floods around the river Thames. And he pointed out to me that our volunteer rescue service people have to pay for their own equipment and pay for their own training. Well I don’t think that is right. And so, you know we’ve taken £4 million from the so called Libor fines to be used to help pay for uniforms and training for our volunteer rescue services.

So that was the second message. Keep on doing what you’re doing, because it is such a vital work. And I know we’re not out of the woods yet; we’re not out of the water. So let’s stick at it, all of us, whether we are farmers, whether we’re businesses, whether we’re government, whether we’re flood wardens, whether we’re councillors, we’ve all got to stick at it. The recovery phase is often the most different – difficult.

The third thing I wanted to say is just that, I believe that we should do more as a country to recognise extraordinary voluntary service. We have good ways of doing that: we have obviously the honour system which has a role to play, we have Big Society Awards that go to organisations that do a great job in terms of stepping up and stepping out for our communities. But there’s something else I want to do. In America for a long time now, they’ve had these wonderful awards called the Points of Light. George Bush Senior made a great speech when he talked about the 1,000 points of light in our society, extraordinary volunteers who do extraordinary things, shining out particularly in dark and difficult times. Well you were in many ways those first points of light here in the UK. So today I’m announcing that Britain is going to have its own Points of Light scheme, working in alliance with the Americans who have already had their 5,000th award given out.

Today I’ve had a huge privilege of handing out the first 5 awards to people who did extraordinary things during the storms and the floods in terms of community service. But I think it’s really important as a country that we recognise that people who step forward – who volunteer – they are the best of British, they show that great British spirit, and we should celebrate that properly in our country.

But above all, a very big thank you. Please enjoy coming here to Number 10 today. You will meet people who did similar things to you, but in totally different parts of the country; I’m sure you’ll have great stories to tell and great experiences to share. But above all, as Prime Minister, I just want to thank you for showing the best of British spirit. Thank you very much indeed.